I used to say, “I fooled people into thinking I was nice.”
I’m not a classically “nice” person. I’m blunt, I’m impatient, I’m selfish and I’m judgmental. In short, I’m very, very human.
I consider myself tremendously blessed to be a writer. Why? Because every day I spend writing is day I spend learning to be a better human. I can look around now, after years of writing, and realize—with more than bit of shock—that I’m really not fooling people anymore.
The traits I used to pretend to have are now ones that come—more and more—with habitual ease, and all because the habits and mindsets I’ve developed in an effort to improving my writing have in turn improved all other areas of my life.
And I’m not the only one. This is a phenomenon writers everywhere are experiencing. Following are just a few of the things I, and others, have learned from our writing.
Writing Teaches Me to Be Responsible
Even though many non-writers believe we spend most of our time airily staring into space, I think we all know writing only happens when we show up at our desks and work. As Peter de Vries says, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” Creating the habit of showing up for writing every day inevitably creates ripples of responsibility in every other area of our lives.
Writing Teaches Me to Empathize
Writing necessarily brings us into the skins and brains of people we might never even meet in our real lives, much less bother to understand. To write a character well is to truly understand and empathize with that character—and in doing so, we learn to better empathize with other fellow humans. New York Times bestselling ghostwriter Kevin Kaiser says,
“Writing, fiction especially, is the ultimate empathetic device and our imaginations have the power to place us in someone else’s skin and shoes. If we’re open to it, we can truly see the world through new eyes. We can become them. In fact, in order for our writing to be powerful, we must. Learning how to see the world as someone else, to call into question all the beliefs and ways of being in the world that I take for granted, is the greatest gift I’ve received from writing. And, I think and hope, it has made me a better human being for it.”
Writing Teaches Me to Be Generous
The writing life is often a lonely one and always a difficult one. But even though it is necessarily solitary in the large part, it is not one that can be successfully traversed without the aid of others. We need the encouragement and support of family; the time and knowledge of beta readers, editors, and agents; and the guidance of design experts, marketing experts, and writing experts. My desperate need for the help of others makes me aware daily of how important it is to give back—to be generous, to be selfless, to treat others as I wish to be treated—in all areas of life.
Writing Teaches Me to Be Compassionate
When the writing gifts of empathy and generosity combine, they bring us to perhaps the greatest gift of all: compassion. Marcy McKay, creator of Mudpie Writing, notes:
“One of the many gifts writing has given me is compassion. It allows me to experience the world through different eyes. Like the morphine addict I interviewed years ago for a magazine assignment who stopped being ‘that druggie’ I judged, to a real person, worthy of my respect and empathy. Every character in my novels has taught me at least one life lesson, but the greatest personal surprise has come from blogging. Through hundreds of email conversations with other writers, I’ve seen how hard we are on ourselves. I now extend more grace to myself and no longer beat myself up over, ‘Is it good enough?’”
I have been blessed to meet and converse with tens of thousands of my fellow writers. I say without prejudice that they are some of the best people I know. They are open, warm, encouraging, curious. Coincidence? Not in my book!
K.M. WEILAND lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.