Today I’m marveling a bit about how many spill-over effects writing has had on my entire life, and how pervasively it has benefited me as a fumbling human.
Creative writing has been part of my life in some form or another since I was little, though I was mostly dabbling in it or journaling.
When I did step beyond dabbling, I also stepped into an ever-present desire to ‘get somewhere’ with it–and that would be nice!– but here are a few incredible benefits I’d like to remind myself of, about how the work of writing really is its own reward:
- More Confidence. Writing creates an inner center of self-esteem and confidence because “Confidence sits in the center and knows…” (where did I hear this?! I can’t find the reference but think of this phrase often). Rather than trying to convince others that I am worthwhile, I tend to have more true non-solicitous confidence when I’m writing a lot.
- More Courage. Writing empowers me to dare more even when I don’t feel confident, because I’ve already hoped and visualized certain things in ink. Or, I’ve named my fear and my strategy against it, so it doesn’t seem larger than it is!
- More Verbal Finesse. Writing absolves me of confusion, making it easier to verbalize what I think about difficult topics. Most of the time!
- More Freedom from Vices. Writing keeps me out of trouble because it’s hard work. I don’t need any more vices than I already have. After all, I have things to be sad about. I have failures and losses that could consume me. Writing is something I can do to stay engaged and healthy as a human with problems, even if I never sell a single copy of anything.
- More Contentment in Aloneness. I get lonely sometimes but I also just enjoy my own company. I think it’s because writing is part of what introduced me to my own unique self, my own voice. Though I love being with people, too, I can honestly say I’m usually happy on my own. Or rather, I need both while not longing for one over the other, which I think is a balanced way to be.
- Motivation and Self-Persuasion. Writing makes me more ‘the boss of myself’. If I’m not motivated or invested in my goals or whatever, I’ve learned to write myself into being motivated.
- More Decisiveness. I solve most daily problems and even deeper problems fairly decisively thanks to how writing has taught me to think. Writing about those things I am deliberating about typically gets me to the crux of what I have to confront fairly quickly.
- More Extroversion. Writing has improved my ability to come up with stuff to talk about. The more interesting stuff I’m writing about and researching, the more I have to draw on in random conversations–which has been helpful for an introvert like me, who’s had to learn to be an extrovert in order to get more out of life.
- More Perspective About Others. I’m pretty direct and don’t mind a debate but writing helps me tone it down. For instance, writing can negate the impulse to judge and gossip, because instead you vent by scrawling it out (and shredding–very important!). When I can do this, I have more actual insight about others. But also, writing tends to help me think about people in a deeper or broader light. I still need to improve how I interact with people sometimes, but sometimes I have to smile at the thought of how much worse I’d be without writing.
- More Humility. When I mess up in something I publish, those mistakes are openly manifest, which is humbling. I’ve had to learn to be quick to admit when I’ve been wrong and accept sunk costs without looking back on them in agony, or feeling disinclined to improve and do better. It takes humility to appreciate when I get it right while also knowing that pretty soon I won’t. Even really good writers and editors never graduate from making mistakes.
Your list is probably distinct from mine. Consider articulating what writing does for you. It might bring clarity.
All this said, sometimes I hear myself writing about writing like this, like it’s the ultimate force of the universe or something, and feel like I need to emphasize that in my experience an authentic daily relationship with a higher power is my more precise source of these things. This has mattered to me. Definitely.
In conclusion, beyond those validating moments when we feel writerly, it’s sometimes stinking hard work. But it’s been my experience that no matter what crazy amount of sweat equity we put into it, we get even more back. So it’s never wasted.
Plus, the benefits to you as a writer will spill over to others around you.
So go ahead, face the page. Reap those rewards.