Does Writing Make You a Better Person?

Update: This post is quoted (nearly) in its entirety in Gutsy Choices: Action Steps for Super Life Change by Russell DeWitt. Aside from my little bits of wisdom below, I commend it to your attention for further reading.

This post was prompted by a question from my friend Russ. The specific request was:

[P]lease tell me what benefits the world of writing has done for you in your development as a person?

Since childhood, I’ve done multiple forms of writing, from fiction to school assignments to work products and journaling. School and work products are necessary for intellectual and professional development–development of the mind. Story telling is an exercise in creativity: imagining things that never were, jumping into the unknown of our subconscious and making it known through characters, actions, and places. Journal writing is an exercise in self-analysis in literary form.

Each of these forms has its own virtues and develops a different part of the whole mind.

Fiction writing is the equivalent of a mental quest or vacation. I’m trying to tell myself or other people how I see the world. Fiction helps me express myself. Sometimes it helps me solve problems or express I see in the world. Maybe some of my stories have brought some good to those read them.

Journal writing, for me, is the tool I use to fix problems with myself. I’ve been keeping a regular journal since I got a typewriter for Christmas 27 years ago. Sometimes I write with the assumption that someone else will eventually read my thoughts, most of the time my audience is myself. I’ve speculated on how to make the world a better place, identified ways to improve myself or to find fault with myself. Sometimes my journal is a one-sided therapy session where I explain what I’m feeling, either in handwritten or electronic form. My journal lets me plan, vent, grieve, shout, laugh, and pontificate in ways that might or might not be acceptable to others, but it helps me clarify who I am to myself.

Has writing made me a better person? That would be harder to say. I look back at my journals from years back with some embarrassment, either because my half-smart philosophies at some point in my past now seem childishly wrong or because problems that cause me pain today are all too familiar and haven’t been resolved. Some problems I’ve resolved, others have arisen to take their place. And yet I keep writing, in a constant quest to better myself and to understand myself and my place in the world.

I write because that’s what I do and how I perceive the world. It is so much a part of me I hardly know life without it. When I am gone, my writing is all that will remain. Perhaps that will be enough to speak to the ages.

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