In a 1958 interview, William Faulkner said, “Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing.”

“Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing. Being ‘a writer’ means being stagnant. The act of writing shows movement, activity, life. When you stop moving, you’re dead. It’s never too soon to start writing, as soon as you learn to read.” (from an interview excerpted in The Daily Princetonian, 1958)

I have no quibble with the latter. Action is absolutely essential. But I beg to differ on the former. Being a writer—identifying oneself as a writer—is a mind-set with profound implications.

Benefits of Being a Writer I’ve Observed

For one thing, you become more aware of the nuances of language—for example, the difference between mopping up the water and sopping up the water. It goes beyond dictionary definitions, punctuation, and grammar, necessary as those are.

Being a writer may not be terribly beneficial to your spine…

You become a more observant person, noticing what people say and how they say it. You realize that saying something is beautiful, scary, dull, etc. really doesn’t communicate much. It tells the speaker’s emotional response, but does nothing to allow the listener to share the experience. What caused that emotional response?

Then, too, writers are life-long learners. Writers need to—want to—“get it right.” If the story is set during the Great Depression, and you write that ham was ten cents a pound or gas was ten cents a gallon, it needs to be accurate. Readers can’t trust a writer to get anything right if they don’t get basic, verifiable facts right.

Writers meet other writers, in classes, critique groups, at conferences, online, in all sorts of interesting places. The result is a confluence of interesting people. I never met a boring writer (though some writers are married to remarkably boring spouses).

Being a writer is great for your abs and hip flexors…

Other writers sometimes become friends, friends who really care about what you are doing, who are willing and eager to talk about it. I have a whole circle of friends and relatives who are happy when I publish something (mostly short stories these days). But they don’t ask about my writing otherwise, seldom ask the title, never ask where it is published, don’t really want to hear about plot, structure, or getting stuck.

Writing has allowed me to know myself better. The recurrence of themes—whether struggles, outcomes, or family relationships—shows me what is (and probably always was) important to me.

I once wrote a story of a childhood event vivid in my memory from the perspective of my mother. It gave me a new appreciation for her life situation, marriage, and goals.

Speaking personally, writing is the most intellectually engaging thing I do. It feeds my soul.

Benefits of Being a Writer Researchers Have Observed

There isn’t a lot of research on soul food, but there’s quite a bit of research on the benefits of writing.

Being a writer may cause oddly patterned hair loss…

Psychiatrist and life coach Dr. Erwin Kwun has described five benefits of writing:

  • Build resilience
  • Sharpen the mind
  • Boost your happiness
  • Communicate complex ideas clearly
  • Learn about yourself

For one thing, writing is good for one’s cognitive skills. According to a review of relevant research by M. Cecil Smith, Ph.D. (published by Northern Illinois University), writing seems to be beneficial to cognitive skills because it requires focusing attention, planning and forethought, organization of one’s thinking, and reflective thought, among other abilities – thereby sharpening these skills through practice and reinforcement. Writing may, indeed, be beneficial to intellectual vitality, creativity, and thinking abilities.

The National Institutes of Health agrees, being a writer is good for one’s emotional well-being. “Writing allows individuals to observe, monitor, and evaluate how they express and control their emotions. The sense of control over emotions that is a direct result of writing helps the writer improve their well-being and reduces negative emotions.”

Being a writer carries a distinct risk of introspection and fabulous fashion sense…

English teachers and writing teachers know very well the benefits of being a writer. Not only is writing practice critical to develop good reading skills, it is also a crucial job skill. Because so much communication today takes place online, being able to write clearly and directly has become a necessary skill for social connection.

  • Writing equips us with communication and thinking skills.
  • Writing expresses who we are as people.
  • Writing makes our thinking and learning visible and permanent.
  • Writing fosters our ability to explain and refine our idea.
  • Writing allows us to process and understand our own experiences.
  • Writing gives us better empathy and understanding of people different from us.
  • Writing creates entertainment for ourselves and others.
  • Writing provides others with a sense of who we are and how we think.

Writing is an important and powerful tool in everyday life. Writing allows us to store information, to make a permanent record. The appeal of this function of writing is evidenced by the popularity of keeping diaries (records of daily events) and journaling (with more focus of the meaning of events, making it more internal and personal).

Bottom Line: Be a writer in 2024. It’s good for you!

Why Do I Write?

If you aren’t writing to put food on the table, you’re writing to feed your soul. And if you are writing to put food on the table, you are likely on a starvation diet!


how much do writers earn less than you think
As you can see from the blue and yellow bars on the graph, the vast majority of writers report earning less than $1000 a year. So what’s in it for us?
From college till I left paid employment thirty years later—excepting the occasional lines of private poetry—I wrote only academic articles and research reports. When no longer employed, with no title and no built-in social network, I found myself lost. And depressed. That’s when I started writing Dark Harbor. Mysteries had been my favorite escapist reading, so of course I could write one! I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing and enrolled in a writing class at the VMFA Studio School. And here I am, three books and more than fifty short stories later, still writing.


So why write? Because it’s good for you! In the February 10, 2017, Writers Digest published “11 Reasons Writing is Good for Your Health” by Baihley Grandison. According to Grandison, there are 11 science-backed ways writing improves your mind, body and spirit. Read the whole article, but in the meantime, here are the topics covered:


  1. Communicate better
  2. Be smarter
  3. Achieve goals
  4. Increase memory capacity
  5. Boost job prospects
  6. Healthier immune system
  7. Reduce blood pressure
  8. Improve lung function
  9. Boost athletic performance
  10. Heal traumatic and upsetting experiences
  11. Gratitude
6 unexpected ways writing can transform your help
Writer’s Digest isn’t the only source of such assertions. As far back as this Huffington Post article from 11/12/2013,  Amanda L. Chan extolled the virtues of writing by hand to better retain information and build motor memory. Other benefits of writing listed were:


  • Expressing emotions through words may speed healing
  • Consider it a fundamental part of your gratitude practice
  • Writing what you’re thankful for could help you sleep better
  • It makes your mind—and body—better
  • It could help cancer patients think about their disease
My own experience with breast cancer and its treatment gave rise to three publications: a magical realism piece, “Beast and the Beauty”; a memoir titled “Hindsight” about altering my view of my mother’s invalidism; and a newspaper essay titled “Repair or Redecorate After Breast Cancer.”
10 reasons why writing is good for you
Jordon Rosenfeld cited ten reasons for writers to keep writing regardless of publication or income. Rosenfeld encouraged sharing his post, so here’s his list:


  1. Creativity has been proven to have positive effects on health, self-esteem and vitality
  2. Writing is good for your brain, creates a state similar to meditation
  3. Writing hones your powers of observation, giving you a fuller experience of life
  4. Writing hones your powers of concentration and attention, which is more fractured than ever thanks to technology and TV
  5. Writing connects you with others through blogging, writing groups, live readings, and self-publishing outlets like Scribd and Smashwords
  6. Through writing we preserve stories and memories that may otherwise be lost
  7. Writing entertains you and others, and having fun is an important part of good health
  8. Writing strengthens your imagination, and imagination is key to feeling hope and joy
  9. Writing helps heal and process wounds and grief, clearing them out
  10. Life is too short not to do what you enjoy
vivian lawry author
Why do I write? It keeps my brain sharp. I learn new things when researching stories—everything from the effects of ketamine on humans to the price of gasoline in 1930 to the characteristics of Buff Orpington hens. I understand myself better in relation to my family. I meet interesting people. (I’ve never met a boring writer!) My journal helps me keep track of personal events, thoughts, and trivia. Publishing—even without much financial reward—is good for my self-esteem. And now that I am a writer, I no longer define myself by what I used to be—as in, “I’m a retired academic.”


Why do you write?