by Kelsie Engen


What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

That’s a hard one, because I feel like I’ve learned many things the more I write.

In fact, writing is one of those things that makes you learn, even if you want to or not.

Or perhaps it just takes an extraordinarily stubborn person to not learn something while learning a new skill in order to truly not learn anything new. ; -)

So in the interest of brevity, I’ll share the three top lessons I’ve learned as a writer.

Most obviously, I’ve learned to be a better writer.

Looking back at some of my earliest writings, I shudder. Early writing sucks. (And I think most authors will agree with me on this.)

It may have a great character or a great story, or maybe it’s just exactly what you needed to write at that time in your life. Maybe it was a sort of fan-fiction for whatever you were obsessed with as a kid, and you had to get it down simply to indulge yourself. But those things probably shouldn’t see the light of day for myriad reasons. I have several things like that. And glancing back at them every now and then tells me exactly how far I have come.

While there may be shimmers of promise in them, no one but me and my family members might consider it worth reading. (Thanks, family. I love you.)

But writing takes you beyond writing.

Writing teaches you about whatever subject you’re writing about.

Take, for instance, my first “real” novel (the first one I actually edited and attempted to publish–but I’m happy to have unpublished right now).

I wrote about a horse jockey, because I’ve always loved horse racing. However, I grew up (and still live) in Alaska. I’ve never spent time on a track, and getting to a track in Alaska is pretty darn near impossible.

Now in this Internet day and age, it’s much more possible to make friends with the “right” kind of people in order to find the information you need, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to gain the type of experience and knowledge that a jockey would know. Sure, I could fake it for a lot of the book, skimp on the places I didn’t need to add that information, but there are some things that are difficult to make authentic when you don’t experience it yourself or have one willing honestly to tell you what it’s like.

But my point is that I had to read a lot of non-fiction books, blogs, articles, etc., and watched a lot of horse races and jockey documentaries in order to find out what it was like.

And that’s true for almost any book–you have to read about and experience life–non-fiction, unadulterated life in order to write about it accurately.

Right now I’m writing a fantasy fairy tale, and I’m currently learning about poisons. It’s one of the best things about writing: being able to constantly learn. (And don’t think that because it’s fantasy I can get away with whatever I want. There needs to be a vein of truth in there, and there has to be something for a reader to connect with as a human, whether you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy or realistic fiction.)

The final reason I’ll share today is the real reason I keep writing and the reason I am the person I am today.

Writing taught me to accept who I am.

It seems so silly and simple, really, but I used to be afraid to admit that I was–at heart–a writer. It seemed so pathetic, like something someone would do who didn’t have any friends. (And maybe I didn’t really, but I was one of those who wrote stories in class underneath my class notes.) I was ashamed to admit I loved to live in other worlds. And it took me a long time to be okay with sharing those worlds with other people. At first, my writing was simply for myself, an escape when I was stressed or bored or just for pure enjoyment. I loved those worlds I created, and I lived in them.

As I continued writing, I began to want to share those worlds with others. And I finally had the courage to do so (thanks to the anonymity of the Internet). And it made me grow as both a writer and a person to hear feedback. Sometimes it hurt, but growth can hurt. But I never regretted sharing my writing or continuing to write. I still don’t.




Alternately titled “3 Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned from Writing (IWSG July).” 

Guest post contributed by Kelsie Engen. Kelsie loves to read and started her blog to share that passion with others of like mind.