It’s the holiday season! And regardless of how you celebrate, it’s a great time of year for taking stock. You know, the short days, the long, often cold nights, the fires in the hearth. And around here, the blissful silence of a snowy walk.*
My December post here last year related how I’d been reminded of the original spark that brought me to the page as a writer, and how the reminder felt like a gift—one that, in the spirit of the season, I wanted to pass along to my fellow WUers. Rereading the piece made me realize that there are many other gifts the writing life tends to bestow.
So, in the interest of taking stock, and in the same seasonal spirit, I thought I’d try to identify and list some of those gifts.
A few disclaimers: This list is far from complete. And both the gifts and the quantity and quality of each varies by the writer. I understand that many of these are virtues, and I don’t mean to portray writers as more virtuous than non-writers, and particularly not myself. I’m only saying that we’re all works-in-progress. And, hey, we all know how challenging this gig can be. Heaven knows how hard we can be on ourselves–over goals not met, deadlines missed, etcetera. Why not take a moment to focus on the often unremarked benefits we reap from our efforts? Particularly now, during the gift-giving season.
So let’s put another log on the fire and take stock, shall we?
Heightening Empathy—There are numerous studies that show that reading fiction leads to greater empathy. And it makes such obvious sense, that regularly putting oneself into the shoes of characters heightens one’s willingness to seek, and ability to grasp, a better understanding of our fellow humans.
But what does that mean for us writers? As writers, the act of putting ourselves in the shoes of others is no mere passive byproduct of the undertaking. In order to provide the feels, we have to live the feels. Creating the stories that successfully inspire empathy in our readers requires us to constantly strive to immerse ourselves in the perspective and the feelings of others (even the villains!). To do so, we must explore beyond superficial goals and motivations and delve into hidden or subconscious desires and fears, joys and sorrows.
The more sustained our effort, the more improved the outcome. Hence, the longer we strive to improve our writing, the more habitual and acute our empathy becomes.
Increasing Humility—I know, I know—in an essay that touts (brags on?) our gifts, I’m going to talk about how humble we are. Ironic? [Read more…]