Ten Things Writing Can Teach You

Everyone likes a good listicle, right? Well here goes, then. Ten things writing can teach you.

  1. Writing is not life. In many ways, writing is a lot like not living. You sit in a room by yourself while meticulously describing places you have never been (though, you’ve thoroughly Googled them) while transcribing conversations that have never happened between people that don’t actually exist. All of this occurs at the expense of your very real responsibilities and obligations like you know, bills, vacuuming, writing paid articles, responding to your partner’s questions or your dog’s longing looks out the front door, her lead meaningfully dropped by her side… You give up your real world in favour of an imagery one, but writing is not real life. So, try not to linger in your make believe world for too long, because the pendulum must always swing back.
  2. Even though writing is not life, you also can’t live without it. The focus, challenge and surprises that come along with the development of a draft (after draft, after draft) are deeply rewarding. It’s a cliché, but it’s one worth remembering: writing is the reward.
  3. Writers guilt is real, oh so real. At some point, you must simply accept that a) whenever you’re engaged with any task other than writing, you’ll feel as though you should be writing and b) whenever you’re writing, you’ll always feel as though you should be doing something more practical.
  4. You’ll desperately try to turn boring or obligatory events, conversations, gathering, errands or activities into “material harvesting sessions.” A trip to the grocery store is suddenly an exercise in description as you take note of peculiar looking couples, different styles of dress or unique gaits. You patiently listen to your uncle talk about his car/youth/house renovations while sifting through his ramblings looking for an interesting turn of phrase, name or hint of anecdote. And if you’re not doing these things…then you’re probably just feeling guilty about not writing.
  5. The first few times you hear someone says, “That essay/chapter/blog was good/moving/funny,” you’ll think they’re being sarcastic or really really kind.
  6. Writing is hard. It’s not hard in the way coal mining is hard, but it does take a lot of effort. Effort that may go unrewarded. You could spend four years working on a novel that literally no one wants to publish (even your mother couldn’t be bothered reading it!). Writing is hard, but being a writer is a privilege. If you’re a writer, it’s reasonable to assume that you’re well educated and financially supported, because let’s be honest, if you weren’t being financially supported by something/someone…you literally couldn’t afford to continue working on your literary masterpiece. You are in the rare position to do what is loved rather than what is necessary, even if your future is filled with both risk and unpredictability.
  7. The writing life is filled with risk and unpredictability.
  8. Dogs make excellent writing companions. Compared to writers groups, their opinions are far less conflicting.
  9. Writing teaches you things about your own mind. You may not realise how complex your opinions about social injustice, racism, gender equality, love, revenge or pandas are until you start writing about them. Incidentally, pandas have recently been downgraded from  ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’. Small wins people. Small wins.
  10. Those empty notebooks in your cupboard? Yeah, you’re never going to fill them. Never. Yet, you, and others will continue to buy them because the cover was just so damn cute. Apparently, you can never own too many (unused) panda notebooks.

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