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4 Weird Side Effects of Learning How to Write

#2. Your Old Favorite Novels Are Now Awful

A side effect of that side effect is that all that extra reading with a newly learned eye takes away a bit of the magic of books, and at minimum will make you a far harsher critic. Once you've sunk your teeth into writing a bit, learned some of the common pitfalls, like overusing cliches, and busted your ass to send them packing, they'll stick out like a sore thumb when you see them in other people's writing. The same applies to stock characterizations or clumsy prose or any other flaws that you might have once sailed past.

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Rereading authors you once loved is a particularly enlightening experience. The thriller and adventure and fantasy novels I once read now look awful to me. These books were once a pretty enjoyable part of my adolescence, and that they've been forever ruined by my growing brain is bittersweet, to say the least.

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"Also, wrestling was fake, Santa was your dad, and your dad was an actor paid for by the scientists who actually bred you."

#1. You're Never Not Writing

Perhaps the most common piece of writing advice offered to young writers is to "write what you know," and for good reason. The activities and experiences and fetishes you know firsthand are going to be the ones you can describe with the most confidence and in the most detail, which will make for a far more vivid and readable end product. And once you get into the habit of this, you'll be constantly surveying your real life for things to write about. I don't write a ton about my real life here (only a few colleagues at Cracked know that I'm actually a 12-year-old Malaysian girl), but even I do this to some extent. My bedbug column was based on my own bedbug scare. My transit rules column was written after getting kicked off the bus for having bedbugs.

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And the autoanalrodentation one was based on a different time I'd gotten kicked off the bus.

But even if you don't write comedy articles, instead dedicating your time to writing something horrible like academic literature or poems, you'll find yourself doing the same thing. Everything you think gets laid out as if you were about to write it; you're always framing arguments, stanzas, and jokes in your head. You'll end up with the equivalent of hours-long lectures on a variety of subjects, tucked away in your head, ready to be inflicted on anyone foolish enough to stand still around you.

As a side effect, this is incredibly valuable, and I honestly think it alone is worth learning to write. Being able to put your thoughts and emotions into words has established therapeutic effects. Simply being able to assign a label to an emotion or verbalize what's happening around us makes us feel more in control. And then of course there's the long-standing theory that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. Being able to explain, paraphrase, and summarize a topic is a superb way of furthering your understanding of it, suggesting that the act of writing about a topic is very much a close cousin to teaching it.

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Class dismissed.


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and is back now. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to tell him how much you enjoyed his absence.

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