As writers, we must continually fill our minds with new thoughts and ideas, bits of trivia, and information about a wide variety of subjects. It all comes out eventually in some form in our writing. And most authors I admire claim you must read voraciously if you want to be a good writer.
I’m going one step further than saying we must merely read. We must actively learn new things and apply that knowledge. Because what good is learning if you don’t act upon it? Here are five reasons to try to learn something new every day and apply it to your writing.
1. Strengthen your brain to fight against memory loss and dementia
"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today." — Malcolm X
Prepare for your future today by keeping your brain nimble and quick with plenty of useful ideas and information. Science is proving that an agile mind is a healthy mind, even in old age. Just as you need to exercise your body, your brain needs exercise daily to keep it challenged and fully functioning. And it’s easier to adapt to change when you’re constantly learning new things. Life is just one big series of changes, right?
2. Boost your self-confidence
"No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire." — L. Frank Baum
Learning new things means you can take part in more conversations in social settings. Give your self-confidence a needed boost when you can engage articulately with others on myriad subjects. Be ready to back up your new knowledge with the facts you’ve learned, but stay open to learning new things from others. Always keep an open mind—no matter what.
3. Stay humble
"Shall I tell you a secret of a true scholar? It is this: Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that, I learn from him." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every chance meeting with someone else is an opportunity to learn something. Perhaps that’s why TED Talks are so popular. You can learn so much listening to others speak about their areas of mastery. And you can find someone’s area of mastery by asking a few questions to draw them out. Even your server at dinner this evening has a story. Coax it out and learn from it.
4. Enhance your health and happiness
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." — Mahatma Gandhi
Beyond strengthening your brain, science also proves focusing on your own personal growth lowers your body’s cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone we all struggle with. Keep yourself healthy through constant education to enjoy an improved immune system and better sleep. Also, learning new skills to add to your repertoire releases a rush of dopamine, your feel-good hormone.
5. Broaden your horizons
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go." — Dr. Seuss
Many scientists and psychologists believe creativity is the ability to take your knowledge and apply it to another setting or situation. When you broaden your mind with new information, you can look at problems from a variety of angles, making your solutions that much more "creative." Imagine how much better your next book will be when you apply all your new knowledge to creating it.
You owe it to your readers to become the best you can be—the best writer, the best plotter, the best at reaching people with words, and so much more. Build skills in all areas and master as many as you can. It will inform your writing and make it more compelling to your readers.