Reading and telling stories has been a popular family and cultural activity for thousands of years, and its’ one of the primary ways that we pass our histories and values from generation to generation. But storytelling is not just for readers and listeners, because writing stories can be a powerful tool for self-development.

Here are just a few of the ways that story writing can improve your life.

You’ll Become More Empathetic

Scientists have found that reading literary fiction can improve your empathy, or the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That makes sense because good fiction often compels you to adopt the point of view of the protagonist as you’re reading.

But imagine if you were creating that character rather than just reading about him. How much more strongly could you identify with his plight or triumph then?

When you first start writing fiction, your characters will look an awful lot like you, but they will evolve over time. Stick with it, and you’ll grow to appreciate different world views, and you’ll incorporate them into your stories.

Your Creativity Will Blossom

There are only so many ways you can tell the shrouded story of your own childhood through fiction, so it won’t take long before you’re looking for ideas that go beyond your own life. You’ll begin to open your eyes to the stories all around you, just waiting to be told.

Suddenly, your weekly trip to the grocery store or that dusty box of family pictures will become treasure troves of story ideas.

You’ll Start Telling Stories

After you write a couple of stories, you probably will find that you really want to share them with other people, especially those closest to you. You might “accidentally” drop some details of your latest story when talking with your wife before bed, or maybe you’ll suggest that your family starts a weekly Story Night, as mine did.

Whatever the case, don’t be surprised if your writing leads to better verbalization.

You’ll Grow Closer to Your Children

If you have children, then all of the benefits of story writing can’t help but bring you closer. After all, kids live — or should live — in a cotton-candy world of creative play, and if you can step across that threshold for even a few moments each week, you’ll have bought yourself a little extra time in that magical world with your favorite people.

Enjoy those seconds and minutes, though, because they evaporate all too quickly.

You’ll Be Less Stressed

Reading fiction can be a great escape when life is nipping at your heels all day long and you’re stressed to the gills. And keeping a journal is a common recommendation for self-healing and just working through your thoughts from a busy life.

If you could combine the cathartic elements of journaling with the release of literature, how great would that be?

Welcome to the joys of writing stories.

You’ll Be More Productive

I don’t have any hard evidence for this one, but when I’m on a major kick of creative writing, I swear that my thoughts flow better throughout the day, and I perform better in all aspects of life. I type faster, I program faster, I make connections between concepts more easily, and I generally squeeze more out of my 24 hours than when I let stories rot in dredge pan of my brain.

Writing stories will lead you to read more fiction.

You’ll Read More

Most writers have an abiding fondness for reading, and putting your own stories to paper will only enhance that love affair.

Have a tale about vampires and school teachers rattling around your noggin but can’t quite nail the proper dark yet comical atmosphere? Check out Poe or King or Koontz — they might give you a few ideas.

At the very least, you’ll probably find that your own writing can’t keep up with your appetite for fiction once your mind starts popping. Plenty of writers have several books going — reading — at any given time, and it’s just a natural outcropping of the craft.

You’ll Write More

In some ways, words are like love. You might think that you can use up all you have if you give too much, but the opposite seems to be true.

Be open and give your love, and you’re likely to find more ways that you want to love and share.

Similarly, pour your heart out on the page, and you’re more likely to spark the idea for your next story than you are to burn out.

The more you write, the more you must write, and the more creatively productive you will become.

It’s a beautiful paradox that writers can use to make their worlds all the brighter.

Go Write YOUR Stories

I once knew a man who held a degree in English Literature but who insisted he never even thought about writing his own fiction.

“I’m just not creative,” he told me.

It’s beyond me how someone could spend four years immersed in the great stories of the world and not spark a few ideas of his own. In fact, I’m sure this colleague DID have some wonderful fiction in him if he would have only tried.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Just about everyone has at least a few tales to tell if they would only give themselves the opportunity.

Writing stories can improve your life in innumerable ways, and all you need to do is get started.

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