For as long as she can remember, lead WriteWell tutor Kate McBarron has felt intensely drawn to writing.
As a teen, she penned stories and poems and kept countless diaries. Her passion for the written word even shaped her choice of career, landing her a job in marketing and communications, and eventually to the completion of an MA in Creative Writing – doing it as an evening class while working at a marketing agency.
Even after periods in life when I haven’t written very much, I’ve always come back to the page. I never really understood why, until I discovered there was such a thing as writing for wellbeing.
But it wasn’t until she discovered writing for wellbeing that she began to understand what her compulsion to write was really about. ‘All those times when I felt compelled to put pen to paper, to write a story or a poem,’ she explains, ‘I realised what I was really trying to do was make sense of the world around me. And I was trying to understand myself, to find the right words to describe my emotions and experiences.’
Discovering the work of Dr James Pennebaker and his colleagues, researchers at the forefront of the writing for wellbeing movement, was instrumental. ‘I remember it so clearly,’ she explains. ‘I already suspected that writing could have mental health benefits – I’d experienced that for myself. But physical health benefits too? That was mind-blowing.’ It was a lightbulb moment for Kate, when the power of writing as a wellbeing tool really hit home. Kate knew she had at last hit upon her true-calling.
Within months, she had enrolled herself on an MSc course in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes with Metanoia Institute, launching an exciting new career at the vanguard of the writing for wellbeing movement. Since then, she’s become a distinguished writing for wellbeing practitioner, co-founding WritingForLife.co.uk and founding WriteToRelax.com. Kate is also the London branch coordinator for Lapidus International – a words & wellbeing organisation, and a member of NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education).
Kate first found out about WriteWell when it was still in its development phase, after being introduced to WriteWell founder Christina Bunce through mutual friend and colleague Victoria Field (a poetry therapist, writer, PWA tutor and therapeutic writing expert). WriteWell was on the look-out for tutors, so Kate and Christina arranged to meet up for a chat.
‘Before we’d even finished talking, I was already very excited about the whole concept. What a wonderful opportunity to share the benefits of writing for wellbeing.’
Since then, Kate has become an instrumental force in the WriteWell community, designing a number of the courses and writing exercises, leading events and helping countless members discover the joys and myriad benefits of writing for health. She finds it tremendously exciting being able to to spread the word about writing for wellbeing to a wider audience via WriteWell. ’There is so much evidence – anecdotal and academic – to show that writing can be a force for good in our lives,’ Kate explains. ‘I’ve experienced it for myself time and again. Sharing writing with others has become a vocation for me.’
Asked why she feels writing is such an important tool for wellbeing, Kate explains: ‘It is flexible, accessible, affordable and you can come to it on your own terms. You can dive into the deep or you can stay in shallow waters, depending on how confident or tentative you feel in that moment.’
Her passion comes in large part from her own personal experiences with writing, having found the practice a crucial component for managing stress in her own life. ‘Writing is one of my core self-care tools,’ she says. ‘I use it in lots of different ways. When I need to clear my head. When I’m stuck with a problem that needs to be solved. When I feel “full up” with emotions that I need to untangle and set free. Some days writing flows more naturally than others,’ she admits. ‘But it always feels better to get the words out. I can learn from them and move on.’
Fun Facts about Kate:
Most loved exercises and courses?
It’s hard to choose! There’s so much variety.
For a quick break, I enjoy the activities Sensory Map and Feel Good in 3: A place to relax. To give myself a boost and a feeling of morale support, I really like Who’s on your team? And for a bit of fun, it’s Famous first lines.
Hand-written or typed?
I like to write by hand, but sometimes it’s more convenient to type – whether on my laptop or phone. Recently, I’ve started using a washable pen to write on a piece of paper that’s been laminated. When I’ve finished jotting down my thoughts, I can just take a damp cloth and wipe them away. I don’t usually do this immediately. Often, I’ll return to my writing later that day or week. Then if a particular idea or insight jumps out at me, I’ll note it down in my growth journal. Other times I won’t read my words back at all and will just wipe the page clean. It can be a relief – very freeing.
Poetry or Prose?
I write a lot of prose, but my heart lies with poetry. I enjoy playing with words… their sounds and rhythms. But most of all I find it very rewarding, and healing, when I manage to find just the right image or phrase to express a feeling or experience – one that truly captures its essence and shines a light on it. Poetry helps me to process things that I haven’t put into words yet, and it holds those experiences safely in a pleasing container.
Favourite thing about Writewell?
The everyday activities, which you can dip into time and again, whenever you wish.
You can find lots of inspiration from Kate on the WriteWell platform, from quick everyday activities like the Feel Good in Three series, to longer courses like Building Resilience or Navigating Change.
You can also get in touch directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.