Writers aren’t Dreamers: 4 Ways Creative Writing Brings “Real-World” Benefits

businessman-with-the-notebook-2-1362247-mThis post is about four professional and practical benefits of writing fiction: benefits you might not expect if you’ve never written a novel or a collection of short stories.

What’s most important is that these benefits of fiction are “real world” benefits. That means when science snobs who don’t understand the value of the humanities try to bring you down (I mean, who’d think we humans could possibly derive value from something with “humanity” in its name?), you’ll know how to argue for your writing passion on their level.

No, writing a novel isn’t going to cure cancer. It’s not going to solve world hunger (though a story just might inspire someone to be a bit more compassionate and maybe volunteer at or donate to his or her local food pantry.) But creative writing DOES have its place in the “real world.”

Writing a novel does SO MUCH for a person.

1. CREATIVE WRITING DEVELOPS PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS.

And look at that: wow, real life happens to be full of problems (mostly of the minor variety, I’d hope!).

Plotting a cohesive novel is no simple task. You are dealing with situations that, in order to interesting and realistic, have to be full of obstacles and difficulties, not only for your characters but for YOU as the author.

After all, your character are great, but they are only characters. In the end, the writer is the one figuring out how to save the kingdom from a despot, or how to resolve differences between a romantic couple, or how to bring a group of people to a reconciliation.

How is a character going to meet that deadline? Get out of this trap? Find a balance between all the different forces pulling at her in life and clamoring for her attention?

Creative writing forces you think creatively. That’s why it’s called “creative” writing. And that skill most definitely is helpful in the workplace and at home. In all aspects of life, in fact.

Problem solving can require an “out of the box” approach. A unique and strange solution. And novelists are masters of that kind of thinking.

2. CREATIVE WRITING TEACHES YOU THINK CRITICALLY.

Critical thinking is different than problem solving. It means evaluating the solution you’ve come up with for a problem (or evaluating an approach someone else proposes). It’s becoming a lost art, and that terrifies me to no small degree.

It is SO important to be able to dissect what people in authority are telling you. To ask yourself:

  • Could these people have an ulterior motive? Are there cues they might?
  • Are they flat out lying? Are there different ways to interpret the statistics they’re throwing around?
  • Is there a better way to approach this problem than the answer they’re touting?
  • Is what they’re calling a problem truly a problem as big as they’re painting it?

The thing about plotting a novel: if you want your novel to make sense, then you need to be applying these questions to your characters constantly.

Characters need to read like real people. Because of that, you need to be evaluating their decisions and their goals in a critical manner at every major story development.

This doesn’t mean your characters can’t make mistakes. But you need to understand that their choice is a mistake, and why that is. You need to think: this action is likely to have these consequences. If he did this instead, those consequences would be avoided. Sure, different consequences might result, but those aren’t quite as bad. Meanwhile, if option C….

Critical thinking. You don’t want to spend so much time on the critical thinking that you never write, but you do need to devote time to it. And when you that, you’ll learn to approach the real world that way. It becomes second nature.

3. CREATIVE WRITING DEVELOPS YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS.

Grammar. Punctuation. Just as important as mechanics is the ability to express yourself clearly without dragging a point out or talking circles around yourself. These are all skills our culture at large seems to be losing at a worrying rate.

And these skills matter. To present yourself professionally, and to avoid misunderstandings among friends and family, being able to express yourself in a concise but understandable way is critical.

Some level of ambiguity is always part of the language game. Creative writing teaches you to use that ambiguity for clever and thought-provoking effect when you want to, and to avoid the bad kinds of ambiguity: the ambiguity that makes people unclear what point you’re actually making.

4. CREATIVE WRITING TEACHES YOU TO JUGGLE YOUR OBLIGATIONS WELL.

Time-management is the real key to multitasking and managing various obligations successfully, so that everything gets done when it needs to be done.

The thing about writers is that very, very few of us are able to support ourselves financially by writing. We have day jobs. We have family obligations. We might even have an additional interest or hobby or two. So squeezing in an hour or so a day to write isn’t easy. At all.

It takes dedication and perseverance, but most of all, writing daily requires the ability to manage your time well. If you want to write, you learn to make good use of the time you aren’t writing. If you don’t, before you know it writing time has disappeared for a full week. Perhaps longer.

Oops.

This will happen from time to time to everyone, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer in some way. But when a writer does manage to write regularly, if not daily, you know that person is able to prioritize and manage his or her time well.

That skill has a value far beyond cranking out a novel, no?

 

So, have you found that you developed these skills by writing fiction? Has writing fiction developed other skills or held addition benefits for you? Please feel free to comment. We always need support as writers, and this is just the kind of topic to give all of us motivation!

If you enjoyed this post, you can sign up to follow my blog by email at the top right of the page. You can also check out these related lists

  1. How Job Hunting Can Help You Write a Novel
  2. Managing Each Minute: How to Make the Most of Your Writing Time
  3. The Positive Side Effects of Writing
  4. The Negative Side Effects of Writing
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30 responses to “Writers aren’t Dreamers: 4 Ways Creative Writing Brings “Real-World” Benefits

  1. They’re all true and the first two have helped me in my previous jobs. Being the one who can solve problems helps a person prove how valuable they are to a company. It might not make you bound up the corporate ladder, but you are seen as useful and unique.

    Not sure if this falls under the other categories, but creative writing helps one learn how to explain things. When on a project at a job, you can be precise or detailed without stumbling over your thoughts. This is a double-edged sword because some people simply won’t follow your train of thought, so you’ll go too far with the explanation. Still, you can clarify things rather quickly if it’s something you do very often in fiction writing.

  2. One thing I noticed in Nursing before I retired is that the younger nurses coming in did not have the critical thinking skills that we learned in school. There is something different about the way teachers are teaching, or maybe it is less focus on the abstracts of the humanities, I don’t know. I can’t say it is lack of experience, because even with increased experience, these nurses still didn’t “get it”. It is scary.

  3. I wish education would focus more on underlying skills. Creative writing, physics, music, many courses offer such valuable skills, even if you forget the main ideas or never make practical use of the material. These underlying skills should be of interest to the students and the schools, but it all seems to come down to enrollment numbers, GPA, and immediate results like these, not long-term benefits.

    • You are so right, Chris. People care about nothing but test scores, and studying for a TEST doesn’t say anything about your intelligence even, let alone your real world ability to navigate through difficult tasks, to communicate, to intuit what needs to be done and just do it…. It’s a problem.

  4. I completely agree. In fact, I use my writing skills on my resume, because that’s how much I believe writing has enriched my educational and professional background. Let’s not forget about all the skills we acquire in promoting our writing, too. All this is important when dealing with the real world.

  5. Really good insight Victoria!

  6. Miss Alexandrina

    Great post!
    In a lecture yesterday, I realised that #5. Querying helps prepare oneself for a) rejection and b) drafting a personalised cover letter as a hook for jobs. I noticed one of your related links was how job hunting can help one write a novel, but I think it can work the other way around (sort of!). 😉

  7. I’ve experienced, firsthand, the positive influence of being a writer. I’m not afraid to jump right in and tackle challenges. Nor do I fear embarrassment or worry about failing. I’m more organized (although you wouldn’t know it to see my desk!), and I’ve kept my brain active. When I look back over the journey, I feel gratified at the progress I’ve made over the years…if not professionally, at least personally. Great post!

    • I totally agree, writing isn’t about “professional” success. So few writer achieve that and I’ve pretty much accepted I never will. It’s all about the personal growth and personal fulfillment. Or it should be!

  8. This is a timely post in an age when the arts and humanities seem to be under attack. And I wonder if it doesn’t come down to the age-old right brain/left brain debate. While people generally employ one brain hemisphere more than the other (and to your larger point), there’s no substitute for both sides working together in harmony. This is also the premise behind a book I picked up recently, called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It was first published in the ’70s and updated three times, most recently in 2012. It not only teaches drawing, but “seeing,” and makes a case for developing intuitive/creative thought alongside rational thought.

    Btw, Victoria, I stumbled on your blog via Foil & Phaser and enjoy it very much.

    • I’m so glad you’ve enjoying the blog, KT! And thanks so much for your comment here. That book sounds like a great study with some awesome points. It seems like something I would enjoy. I just might have to get it from the library! 🙂

  9. Reblogged this on Brainstorm.

  10. Writing fiction has helped a lot with my view of people, particularly criminals. When you hear about a crime it’s easy to think, “oh that person is inherently evil,” but I find it interesting to pause long enough to consider all of the possible reasons behind the why.

    I’m not saying they’re good reasons, or that any crime can be justified, just that having to write about so many different “lives” is great for insight on the lives around me.

    Fiction has also taught me that nothing can replace firsthand knowledge/experience. Being a writer drives me to try out new things especially if one of my characters is doing it. That openness to life and the experiences that come as a result are invaluable.

    Thanks for the post Victoria; you’ve given me ammunition for my non-writer friends :).

    • It is so true, Brian! Writing is such a window into human nature, the nastiness as well as the good. And it’s good to be aware of that propensity for evil not only in others but in ourselves. I could not agree more with what you said here: writing about crimes and evil people and sin really provokes a lot of thought and consideration of circumstances. Not that it excuses evil…. like you say. But it makes us aware of it.

  11. A very interesting hypothesis, Victoria. I just hope it works in the other direction. As I child, I wanted to be a writer, then a professional golfer, then a guitarist in a rock band, then a photographer but I ended up working as a computer programmer for 30 years. That is, 30 years of problem solving, 30 years of critical thinking (to debug computer programs), 30 years of developing my language skills (Fortran, COBOL, Basic etc.) and 30 years of task organisation and time management (to meet unrealistic deadlines – including Y2K). Now, after all that brainwashing, thinking inside and outside the box, I have gone full circle – and I want to be a writer again. Is there any hope for me? 😉

    • For sure!!! All it takes to be a writer is to write. I firmly believe that. My writing is for ME more than anyone else. There are some things I have published and others that are ridiculously bad that are just for me to learn from and to grow with 🙂

      • I confess that I wrote my comment with tongue planted firmly in cheek and I could have made myself clearer by qualifying the goal as wanting to be a “good” writer – but who knows what “good” means when it comes to the creative arts – it’s largely subjective and often conditioned by non-aesthetic considerations such as commercial viability. My interest is in writing, not publishing, so I also write for ME more than anyone else. And I’m very hard to please. 😉

        • hahahaha!!! Oh, I know it was tongue-in-cheek. We all worry about being “good” writers and judge our own work according to our own standards. Well, as long as you are your target audience… 😛

    • Whatever goals you set for your writing, you’re a writer just by writing.

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