The Emotional and Cognitive Benefits of Writing

We’re all familiar with the idea of ‘the starving artist’.

The average Australian author make $12, 900 a year from their books and writing.

That being said, it is possible to make much more than this and these types of statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt.

If you want to hear a counter agreement to the idea that being a writer means accepting a life of poverty, please read this excerpt from Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Publishing. 

And yet, we need to acknowledge that most writers do not make a living wage from their writing.

Let’s be honest, writing books is not a great way to get rich fast.

So, what are some of the other benefits for writing?

Of course, there are all kinds of ways we can engage with writing: journaling, creative writing (fiction), and non-fiction (memoir, biography, blog, journalism). And these three categories can easy blend together if you’re creating something experimental.

While each form contains its own unique benefits, all forms of writing share a few essential boons.


Writing is a transformational process. This is especially true if you are working on a long-term project, but this transformation process can also occur through journaling and morning pages.

If you’re working on a novel, memoir, or non-fiction book, chances are you’re going to change a lot.

The way I see it, this transformation occurs on three levels…

On the basic level, you developed knew skills that you didn’t have before: how to write a sentence, how to write a better sentence, how to structure this project etc.

On the medium level, you acquire knowledge through whatever research supported the narrative or argument.

On the top tier, you achieve the impossible, you said you were going to do something and then you actually did it! You followed through, you complete a massive task that was years in the making — congratulations!

This same transformational process can also happen through journaling as you may develop a deeper understanding of your own interior world, clarify your thoughts, and figure out what you really think about personal and global issues.
NB: novel writing can also do these things because it is the most magical of unicorns.

Unless your ghost writing a book on statistics, you’ll experience a myriad of emotion rewards throughout the writing process. Why is this important?

Because expressive writing has been linked to improvements in mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels, but only if you engage with it regularly.

I’ve blogged previously about the benefits of journaling, which you can read here, and there is some pretty cool research being conducted into how journaling about one’s feelings and goals can lead to practical results.

One research investigation lead by Laura King, showed that writing out goals for the future made people happier. Similarly, keeping a gratitude journal can also increase happiness as the writer becomes more aware of what is working in their life, rather than fixating on what is not.

You are also forty percent more like to achieve a goal if you write it down.

In one study lead by Jane Dutton, it was discovered that people running stressful fundraising initiatives became twenty-nine percent more productive just by journaling about how their work was making a difference in the world.

Improved cognitive abilities and communication skills

In terms of emotional intelligence and the “hard sciences”, writing forces us to articulate complex ideas and feelings in a way that allows others to understand us.

Good writing happens when a writer is able to communicate clearly and concisely what it is they are trying to say.

Brevity, word selection, cutting adverbs, and sentence structure are just some of the things we need to consider when writing.

“It’s difficult to describe” isn’t going to cut it if you are a writer, and these types of statements don’t serve you or your reputation.

Writing can make you a better learner

If I’m researching a blog post or for an academic article, I don’t just read one source, scurry off and type up my spin on it.

Depending on how complex the topic is, I can interact with three to fifty different sources before and/or during the writing process.

I will read articles or journals online, watch YouTube videos, or listen to podcast. When completing a major project, I also interview experts in their field (this goes for novel writing and my research as an academic).

Additionally, I also believe that there are times when we need to consume before we can create.

If you have nothing to say, then you have nothing to write, and if you have nothing to write it’s because you haven’t been taking in any new ideas.

People talk about replenishing the creative well all the time for good reason, because it’s true.

The sources that inspire you and that gift you with new ideas may very well change over time which is yet another reason why we must continue to read widely and expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are different from our own.

Creating work in a vacuum will lead to dull, unimaginative prose.

Writing is a skill, it’s one that we can develop with practise and intentional effort.

Writing a good book will not guarantee you a truck load of money, but are other benefits that are just as valuable and frankly, longer lasting. 

However, the core reason why you should make time for writing is because you want to write.

If you feel pulled to take up a morning pages practise or to finally finish that novel, there’s a reason why.

And the only way you’re going to discover that reason is by opening a notebook, or a word document, and following that thread one word at a time.


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