It isn’t often you discover, as a writer, that what you do professionally has intelligence-boosting benefits. Everyone assumes that folks in STEM professions are smart; those of us who trend more towards arts and humanities don’t receive the same treatment by a long shot. So when there’s this study and this study and this article that all show that people who write are smarter, well…
Writers Are More Emotionally Intelligent
Writers are highly motivated, empathetic, capable of self-regulation, highly self-aware and have superior social skills: all hallmarks of people who are highly emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence exploded onto the scene as a much more accurate indicator of overall intelligence than IQ in the mid-nineties. People with higher levels of emotional intelligence -the ability to understand, identify and assess their own emotions as well as others- tend to be more widely sought than people with high IQs among recruiters and employers.
Writers are Able to Learn More
In a fascinating study of students taking notes on their laptops versus students taking notes longhand, students who took notes by using a laptop were found to retain less of the information they learned. They also didn’t think as critically about it as did the students who took notes longhand. Note-taking by laptop, researchers learned, was essentially the same as taking dictation: students were focused on getting all of the words instead of the content of the words. Whereas when students took notes longhand they knew they wouldn’t be able to copy everyword, so they were automatically and necessarily sorting the information as it came in. This required that they think more critically about what was being said, as well as organize and summarize it on the fly.
Writers Are Better Able to Process Negative Feelings
A study of unemployed engineers showed that of three groups of engineers, those who were told to write about their experiences and feelings of financial instability and economic inadequacy were more likely to be employed eight months after the study, by over twice as much (53% versus 24%). The theory is that writing gives a sense of closure around the feelings associated with job loss and unemployment, making the prospect of job-hunting less daunting and more manageable.
Writers Are Better Able to Process…Everything
Writing gives a framework within which a person can organize their minds and help them think more clearly and process more efficiently and analytically. Almost every writer is familiar with the problem of the story in their head looking nothing like the story they’re writing, and how many frustrating drafts it takes before they start really resembling each other. This constant editing and processing of information over and over gives writers specifically the incredible ability not just to thoughtfully sort and organize information, but also to use that information most effectively. Whether it’s telling a story or creating quatrains or putting together a technical manual, the process of writing actually boosts writers’ intellectual capacities.
The bottom line is that writing, like anything worth doing, takes regular practice, time and energy to see the benefits.
You’re probably not going to pick up a pen and immediately turn into the next Flannery O’Connor or Barbara Kingsolver, but you might get there. Along the way, you’ll be increasing your intelligence every time you take the initiative and sit down to write.