1. It makes me more empathic.
There is an old saying about “wearing many hats”; well a writer has to wear many heads. You cannot get away with writing from the outside in; you must learn to live inside another mind. Doing that in writing makes it easy to extend that to your personal life. Questions like “What is this person’s motivation? What drives him or her?” don’t have to be limited to writing workshops or book clubs; these questions also apply to real people in real situations, and understanding that means understanding them.
2. It makes me a better reader.
I’ve always loved to read, but it wasn’t until I began to write seriously that I fully appreciated what a joy a perfectly executed sentence is. I read somewhere that Hunter S. Thompson as a young man used to re-write “The Great Gatsby” line by line to help him get a feel for how sentences were assembled, how paragraphs were assembled, and how a novel was assembled. Trying to write anything, a novel, a blog, a tweet (?), forces you to humble yourself to the masters and savor their effort all the more. Although a casual reader may say that focusing so intensely on how something is written rather than what is written impoverishes the experience, but I disagree. Instead, it gives you a greater breadth of sensations as you read, and getting more from a book can’t be bad.
3. It makes me a more supportive friend.
Oftentimes, you hear of creative people being extremely jealous of their friends’ successes and harboring bitterness towards their work. I have found the opposite to be true. When I first began showing friends my work, and eventually showing the world my work through my blog, I was blown away by the overwhelmingly positive responses people gave it, and by extension, me. Writer’s is a lonely world and self-doubt is always a looming shadow cast over everything you put to paper, so having someone validate your work is an amazing and incredibly emotional experience. I doubt the people who said an encouraging word, or told me to keep going, knew how much it meant to me, but I do. So, when I meet someone who is throwing him or herself at a creative endeavor I feel like I owe it to them to show them the same support. A few words of encouragement can mean an awful lot.
4. It makes me more curious.
I’ve always been interested in the world, but writing puts that curiosity into action. I want to better understand the world so that I can, in turn, better write about it. If the old adage: “write what you know” is true, then learning more is an incredible asset to a writer in expanding the writer’s the range. Because a lot of what I write is fact based, I have an inclination to get to the bottom of things. Collecting facts, citing sources, building a compelling argument – all the stuff that made 9th grade English class suck – have become thrilling. A well reasoned persuasive essay is a work of art and accomplishing that is nirvana.
5. It makes me care more about the world I live in.
It’s easy to become disillusioned or disinterested in the problems of the world when you don’t feel like you matter. What writing did was give me a voice, however limited, to express my feelings and promote change. That’s a big deal. Even if just a few people read what you write, and your story, blog post, or article is completely overlooked and forgotten, it still means something, even if just for you. I think of writing as a revolutionary act. It’s a statement to yourself, and to the world, that you are here, you exist, and you care. Caring takes a lot of courage, especially in this age of cynicism, and taking the time to write anything shows you thought enough of yourself and your ideas to do something about it. We need more writers in the world. You never know who will write the next great perfectly executed sentence.