Sometimes, when you read a book, it can change your life. And for as much soul as it takes an author to write a great piece of fiction, or even just tell a true story in a clear, authentic way, it should come as no surprise that that process of writing can have a profound impact on the person penning the story, too. Writing, whether an essay or an autobiography, teaches you about yourself; it allows you to plumb the depths of your own mind, picking at and teasing out emotions that you wouldn’t have otherwise known you had before you sat down to write.
In addition to the psychological, emotional benefits of writing, both the process and the world that surrounds it will teach you other skills, many of which are more tangible than the spiritual growth that can come along with putting fingers to keyboard. Writing helps teach its practitioners discipline, for example, in that all seasoned writers know that a schedule is a far more helpful tool than a lucky pencil. As a writer, I have been witness to the many ways in which being involved with the literary world has made me a more complete person, so below are some of the benefits that I have experienced, and that I think anyone who writes seriously, for any substantial amount of time, will begin to see in themselves as well.
1. You Learn to Critique Criticism
No job, school program or relationship is free from criticism. More often than not, criticism is given to help you succeed, not to make you self-conscious. It may not feel good at the time, but it’s for your own good and will help you grow. However, there are exceptions.
Some people may give writing advice that might not be bad, but is not right for the story, while others may just give straight-up terrible advice. Other times, you’ll meet in the middle. It is up to the writer to use their common sense and knowledge of the story that they’ve written to choose which criticisms will, might and won’t improve their work. Something to keep in mind is if a publisher gives your submission a critique, there is a 99 percent chance that following their instructions will up your chances of getting your work accepted elsewhere.
As for life, the world is full of seemingly useful guidance. Just as people give suggestions for stories they don’t understand, they offer suggestions for people whom they do not know very well. Although the advice is usually given with good intentions, it may not always be right for you. Just like writing, make sure you know what advisors are talking about before applying their wisdom to your life.
2. You Learn to Accept Help
You’re not a bad writer if you take advice from other people or include their ideas into your writing, with their permission, of course. It just means you’re human. Writers are just people, so they make mistakes, which is why this article has an editor, why creative writing classes have workshops and why those classes exist in the first place.
Having assistance in other areas is fine as well. If you have a question about how to do something at work, ask it! It’s better to ask one hundred questions than to make one hundred mistakes; the same thought process applies to classes. If your professors are good at what they do, they would rather have you bombard them with questions on assignments than see you fail. Writing is a craft, and just like every other craft, the more experience you have, the likelier it is that you’re good at what you do. When you’re in school, surrounded by professors who are so talented at writing that they teach it at a college level, you need to jump at every opportunity you can get to pick their brains. Once you graduate, the resources you have at your disposal vastly decrease; you no longer have professors giving you several hours a week to guide your writing, as instead, you have an employer who has deadlines and bottom lines to worry about. Being a writer means recognizing when you have something to learn from someone, and taking that opportunity to improve yourself, rather than swallowing it because of your pride.
3. You Become One with Rejection
Rejection is an inherent part of writing and everyday life. It doesn’t always reflect the quality of your work; it could just mean that your work is great, but not right for the magazine or website where you submitted it, not that you suck. If J.K. Rowling can get rejected, so can everyone else. But she didn’t quit, and neither should you. Persevering despite constant failure leads to both success and thicker skin. Real talk, having publishers say no to me has made it easier to deal with employers denying my applications. In turn, those letdowns led me to discover this internship here at “Study Breaks,” along with a few freelancing opportunities.
Also, writing has helped my love life. Recently, I gave a guy in my communications class my number; he was beautiful and had biceps the size of Jupiter, so I pretty much had to. We texted for a bit, then he ghosted me, but because of my frequent writing rejections, it didn’t hurt too much. When I told my friends and family about this, they offered condolences. I gave the response, “I’m a writer, I’m used to getting turned down.”
To this day, I have no hard feelings toward him. Just as the literary world has many other publishers, the real world has many other men.
4. You Become Persistent
Optimism is a requirement for writing. Very rarely will you get something published by the first company that reads your work, but there is nothing wrong with your piece being accepted somewhere else, even if it is not your first choice. There is also nothing wrong with working somewhere else before getting your dream job.
You’re young. You’re inexperienced. It’s fine, get experience! Even if you’re older, it’s not too late to start. People’s dream jobs (ex. lawyer, doctor, starting a brand-new business., etc.) typically require lots of experience and work, and maybe even money. Just keep pursuing your education, keep saving money to fund your passions and keep working to get ahead in your field, and you’ll be that much closer to fulfilling your goals. You may even establish new goals while in the process.
5. You Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
If you want to succeed, sometimes you need to get pimp slapped out of your comfort zone. Trust me, this helps. Before my sophomore year, I had never written a nonfiction essay outside of my required schoolwork. Now I have an internship where that’s all I do.
Maybe try a new form of writing. If you like writing short stories, try writing a book-length one, or if you like rhyming poetry, then try writing a poem with no rhymes. Who knows, you might be great at it and, even better, you might like it. If what you write is crappy, so what? You just wrote a crappy poem, essay or whatever. At least you got more experience in writing. Plus you don’t have to submit it anywhere, so no one has to see it.
The real life application of this lesson is pretty simple. If you live in a comfort zone, you don’t grow as a person and challenges become harder when all you do is stick to a routine. Granted, you don’t always have to take huge steps away from your conventions; try little changes that eventually build up to bigger goals. If talking to people is not your strength, then start small, like go to the store and have a cashier ring you up instead of the self-checkout machine. After all, if you’re never challenged, you’ll never improve.