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Science Proved That People Who Love To Write Are Smarter

Science Proved That People Who Love To Write Are Smarter

Everyone should write—not just professional writers.

You might say it’s easy for me to say that because I’m a writer. A singer can just as easily say, “Well, I believe that everyone should learn to sing.” But, out of all the creative means of expressions available to human beings, none intrinsically champions critical thinking, enhances creativity and improves clarity of thought quite like writing. Writing makes us smarter.

Here are some reasons (backed by science) why that is so:

1. Writing helps us untangle the messiness in our minds and allows for clearer thinking.

This is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about writing. In her book, Why We Write, curator Meredith Maran interviewed writers on why they write. Nearly all of them gave self-serving reasons, but there was a delightful, recurring motive of why people write: Writing provides a pocket of time in the present moment to reflect, digest and think deeply.

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Joan Didion, author of Play It as It Lays said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.”

Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City explained, “I write to explain myself to myself. It’s a way of processing my disasters, sorting out the messiness of life to lend symmetry and meaning to it.”

It’s not uncommon for one to think they have totally grasped a concept until they write it down and realize there are aspects of the concept they hadn’t quite thought about.

Writing, then, is a way to organize our thoughts. It allows us to reflect and helps us gain new insights and achieve new perspectives. You think more deeply when you write, and that helps you see things more clearly.

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2. Writing helps us absorb information better and learn significantly more.

Not only do you see things more clearly when you write, you also absorb information better and learn significantly more when you write down information given to you. That explains why students and attendees at conferences and meetings who take notes of lectures or speeches learn more than those who just listen to lectures and don’t write anything down.

Interestingly, according to a study published by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer from Princeton University and University of California respectively, students who take notes on paper learn significantly more than their peers who take notes on a laptop.

The researchers found that laptop users generally type almost everything they hear without devoting much thought to what they are writing. Basically, they are not processing the meaning of what they are taking notes on; rather they are mindlessly transcribing. Transcribing doesn’t require much cognitive activity.

Those who take notes by hand, however, obviously cannot write down every single word the speaker or professor speaks. So they have to listen more attentively, summarize the lesson, list only the key points and, consequently, learn significantly more. Your brain is fully engaged in the process of comprehension when you write by hand, which means you remember the information delivered to you better.

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Yes, we live in digital age and I bet you can’t imagine not using your laptop for work or studying, but you shouldn’t totally neglect writing in the good old fashioned way using a pen and paper.

3. Writing helps us process negative feelings and improves our emotional intelligence.

A 1994 study conducted by Stefanie Spera, James Pennebaker and Eric Buhrfeind tasked 63 unemployed engineers with writing to see the effect writing would have on their stress levels.

The participating engineers were divided into three groups: A writing control group (wrote about their plans for the day or activities in their job search), a second control group (did no writing), and the experimental group (did “expressive writing” where they kept journals of their deepest thoughts and painful experiences).

The engineers in the experimental “expressive writing” group wrote for 20 minutes every day, describing their feelings of loss, rejection, financial stress and so on in their search for a job. Three months later, “Five subjects in the experimental group got jobs, no writing control subjects got jobs, and two non-writing control subjects got jobs,” wrote the study authors.

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Eight months later, only 24 percent of writing control subjects had accepted full-time jobs, 14 percent non-writing control subjects had accepted employment, and a whooping 53 percent of experimental subjects found full-time employment. The conclusion from the study:

“Writing about the thoughts and feelings surrounding job loss may enable terminated employees to work through negative feelings and to assimilate and attain closure on the loss, thus achieving a new perspective. Doing so may create a shift in the individual’s orientation that allows getting past the negative emotions, preventing them from resurfacing and perhaps sabotaging the job search in, for example, a job interview.”

In other words, the researchers discovered that suppressing negative feelings is a heavy burden, and writing it out, not for publication but for oneself, is like a balm to chapped lips. Writing it out makes you emotionally intelligent and apt to deal with unpleasant situations.

Bottom line

The psychological benefits of writing (particularly using a pen and paper) are like the gradual benefits of exercising. You don’t often see the gains immediately, but the transformation is happening underneath. When writing, ideas are crystallizing; emotions are examined and questioned (not merely glossed over); and, creativity peaks as dots are connected.

And yet, like exercise, even after understanding how beneficial it would be to your life and work, many people still actively shun writing. Those who write, though, speak and think clearer and are often much smarter.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2018

5 Life Lessons I Learned From Dean Winchester

5 Life Lessons I Learned From Dean Winchester

Is it possible to say anything bad about Supernatural’s co-protagonist, Dean Winchester? I mean, from the very beginning of the show he’s done nothing but save people, hunt things, and look out for his oft-misguided brother Sam, all while putting everyone else’s needs before his own.

Despite a few mishaps and stumbles here and there, Dean really is a great role model (well, excluding his tendency to consume copious amounts of alcohol and spend a bit too much time with a certain adult magazine).

Below, you’ll find a list of just a few of the things that Dean Winchester has taught me about life (beware, spoilers abound)…

1. Always Look Out For Your Family.

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    At the end of the day, all you really have is your family, and thus it’s important not to cut your ties with them unless absolutely necessary. As much as you’d like to think you could do without them sometimes, especially when they’re acting up, it’s a fact that most of us need some sort of support system to keep persevering in our daily lives. That motivation, that drive to succeed, that helping hand when you need it most; it often comes from family. It’s incredibly hard to go it alone in this world, and we should all be thankful for those in our family who make our journeys just a bit easier.

    Dean grew up on the road, and often found himself in difficult circumstances. Without his dad and brother, he’d have been killed, or worse, long ago. Thus, Dean goes to extreme lengths to maintain his relations with what little family he has left.

    His brother therefore is everything to him, so much so that it becomes overbearing to Sam at times (which says more about Sam’s flaws than Dean’s, in my opinion).

    Dean looked out for Sam even when most sane people would turn the other cheek. Heck, he even gave up his soul to resurrect Sam, and later dealt with his brother’s addiction with demon blood in such an understanding manner (given the circumstances) that he probably deserves some kind of award. Later, when Castiel became a permanent fixture on the show, he too became a part of Dean’s family, and as such Dean has looked out for the prodigal angel ever since. Dean is just a supremely loyal guy, who’s insanely protective of the people he loves.

    While you shouldn’t let family members take advantage of you (more on this below), keeping close ties with them and looking out for their best interests is noble indeed.

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    2. Take Care Of Your Car.

    Is there anyone better at maintaining a car than Dean Winchester? It seems that all he needs is a few hours and some bicep flexing to get his 1967 Chevy Impala running as well as it did in…well…1967.

    I have absolutely zero sense when it comes to the mechanics of a car, so I admire Dean’s technical prowess. But this goes even deeper than the car. It’s about the symbolism of it all. We all have something we care about in this world more than most. Some may call it a hobby, some may call it an obsession, but you know it as the thing you love doing. For me it might be writing or video games. For Dean it’s his Impala. For my mom, it would be teaching. For you, it could be any number of things.

    As you see in the image above, Dean keeps his nearly fifty year old car looking brand spanking new, something of a miracle judging by how many times it has been wrecked in the show. If we all put that much elbow grease into the things we are obsessed with and care about the most, not only would we be happier, but the world would be a better place as well!

    To put it even more simply, if you love something as much as Dean loves his Impala, take the time to maintain it, to keep it in tip top shape. I know I’m getting abstract here, but if you like writing, that means keep writing!

    Or if you love cooking, keep coming up with new recipes!

    Dean is passionate about his car, and the time he puts into showing that passion is something we should all emulate when it comes to the things we love and are obsessed with.

    3. Being Brave Has Its Benefits.

    Who would have thought that Lucifer could be beaten by a mixture of bravery and brotherly love? Dean’s shown time and time again in Supernatural that he’s willing to risk his life and limb to take down the greatest of evils, whether it be Azazel, Lilith, Alastair, or the Devil himself. On that same note, were would any of us be if we didn’t have a bit of bravery? I know that I personally would be practically nowhere without the tiny amount of courage I’m able to conjure up now and then. Life is difficult, and it takes perseverance and a belief in oneself to make progress.

    For instance, I’m currently applying to a smattering of PhD programs. Frankly, it’s terrifying, putting myself out there to be judged by faceless entities in some of the world’s top universities. But I’m doing it because I know it’s the right thing for my future, no matter how much it hurts to expose myself to possible rejection.

    One thing I noticed while studying history is that great leaders usually aren’t the most intelligent, all-around awesome people in the room. Otherwise, Ben Franklin would have been our first President and Machiavelli’s republic would have worked out. No, the people who blaze a trail into the future are the ones willing to make tough, heat-of-the-moment decisions without knowing what the exact consequences might be.

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    Often times, all it takes is a bit of moxy and belief in oneself to accomplish things you thought were impossible. For instance, I thought I could never lecture or teach a class, but when the day finally came I walked through the door, took a deep breath, and just went with it.

    Lo and behold it all went fine! Dean is the epitome of that dive in and ask questions later mentality. It may not always be the smartest move on the chess board, but it’s often the one that results in the swiftest victory.

    While there are certainly benefits to thinking everything through, sometimes the situation calls for an empty mind and bold action.

    4. You Will Lose, What Matters Is How You Deal With It.

    As a way to get my creative juices flowing for this article, I’m listening to Bob Seger’s “Beautiful Loser,” which is one of many songs that could be called Dean Winchester’s theme.

    Indeed, it played at the beginning of season 6 when Dean was still trying to cope with the fact that his brother was “dead” by trying to live a normal suburban life (which to Dean was probably worse than the forty years he spent in hell). Of course, we can all relate just a bit to Mr. Seger’s song, as we all find ourselves down in the dumps at one point or another. What matters it how we react to such adversity. Do we cower, and let our failures consume us, or keep fighting and hope to win in the future? Obviously, the latter choice is the better option.

    A good example I have relates to the basketball player Kobe Bryant, a polarizing figure to say the least. He recently attained the NBA record for most shots missed overall, which sounds bad on paper. But let’s look at the facts. Despite the fact that Kobe failed to make thousands of shots, he didn’t let it bring him down. If he let a bad shooting night or two keep him from being who he is, it’s doubtful he would have won five championships.

    We all lose, and are losers, at some points. Even the best of us. We just need to remember that there’s always a new day tomorrow, that there’s always a chance to make up for past deficiencies, always another opportunity to throw the ball into the basket. You aren’t defined by your failures, but by how you choose to react to them.

    Dean’s probably lost more than any character on Supernatural. He blamed himself for his dad’s death, was unable to keep Sam from going dark side, and unknowingly started the chain of events that led to Lucifer’s release.

    On top of all that, he seems to get his face smashed in by people who are supposed to love him pretty frequently, as you can see by the image used above. Fast forward to season 10, and we’ve seen Dean have to deal fairly consistently with people (read: Sam) who don’t appreciate anything he’s done for them.

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    Dean epitomizes the fact that we humans lose, a lot. That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to sit on our laurels and let life beat us down.

    Despite dealing with the lowest of lows, Dean has always risen above in the end and done what’s right. It hasn’t always worked out, but I’d say he’s seen a net positive effect from his actions despite everything he’s been through.

    5. Sometimes You Have To Let It All Out.

    This season, Dean turned into a demon, which removed his humanity and allowed him to go crazy (it involved lots of bar fights and karaoke).

    This version of Dean was all-powerful and snarky to the max. He let everyone have it, especially Sam, who for the past several seasons has treated Dean like an annoyance. Obviously, there’s no way I know of to gain the powers of a demon, and so none of us can let it all out like Dean in the literal sense. But if you’re feeling wronged by somebody, something, or the world as a whole, it’s a great idea to let off some steam every so often.

    This can come in the form of an angry outburst, a lengthy crying session, a prolonged run, a few angry screams at the moon while on an empty beach. Whatever works for you to try and address the pain you’ve been feeling. This doesn’t have to occur very frequently, nor should it. It’s a way to address whatever problems you’ve been dealing with in life in a rapid manner, and come back with a renewed outlook on whatever you were dealing with.

    Sometimes everyone, even someone with as perfect of a personality as Dean Winchester, has to let out their demons, literally or figuratively.

    You can’t just bottle it up all of the time. Dean tried to do this, and it only sparked the series of events that led to him becoming a demon.

    In my opinion, Dean’s time on the dark side was good for him and his loved ones, as they got to hear just how much they’d been taking advantage of his loyalty and trust all these years.

    So there you have it. Dean isn’t just on Supernatural to be a pretty face. He’s there to represent the kind of flawed human with good intentions that we all aspire to be.

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    Though his brother Sam has shown flashes of this as well, Dean really is the one who exudes the kind of loyalty, care, and resiliency that I and others envy.

    After 9 seasons of looking out for literally everyone, I think that Dean’s time as a demon was a breath of fresh air for the character.

    Will this form of his return?

    I hope so, because Dean deserves more than two episodes to rail against all of the people who stepped on him for years.

    Are you a Dean Winchester fan? Or just a fan of Supernatural?

    No matter which, or even none, you can benefit from the lessons the character teaches us!

    Featured photo credit: Dean Winchester/sandrieliribeiro via flickr.com

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