Writing three novels, four novellas, and a fair amount of shorter material in the last three years has changed my life, my outlook, and my world; my writing has changed, improved, no doubt, but there's much more to it than that ... the process of writing so much and so often has affected significant changes in who I am, and how I interact with the world.
To become a writer, you have to shed the fear of exposing yourself to ridicule (at least partly). Working on lots of different creative projects, and sharing them with the world forces you to relax when it comes to fearing the judgement of others.
When you make a habit of writing, your brain and outlook alters. I was terrified of not being able to produce a full-length novel at the beginning of my first NaNoWriMo, but now am fearful of not having enough writing time for all of the ideas vying for space in my head.
Time is fleeting, the life of a man is short, but something you've written can be around forever (as long as people keep reading); there's a magical glow that I feel whenever I finish a project ... and the desire to start the next one (and the next, after that).
I am reasonably sure that I haven't sent my books around to agents and publishers because I enjoy the freedom of being an independent author and publisher. I write what I want, when I want, and how I want. Doing this for days and weeks and months and years is cumulatively empowering in a way that I love and cherish.
The longer I write, the more I recognize writing as therapy ... at least for me. The things I'm stressed by, worried about, bothered because of, all seem less important when I can exorcise them through writing, and explore their greater meaning on the page.
I came across this idea of Hemingway's one day, and fell in love with it instantly. I can feel my writing get better, stronger, faster, and more precise (to finally climb away from Steve Austin-ish language) with each day, each page, I write, but there's a freedom in knowing that there's no final stopping point when I'll be good enough ... I look forward to my writing improving until the day that I can no longer put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.
I used to be careful about what I said and thought and wrote, but the more that I write, the more I enjoy exploring subjects and people that scare and intimidate and fascinate me; cracking a topic or a new and interesting character open in front of the world (or simply in my writing journals/exercises) takes the power away from it/them, and gives it back to me.
Writing all the time forces your brain to grow in seemingly disparate ways, simultaneously. As your comfort with writing grows, you find yourself more easily able to embrace the apparent contradiction of the free flow of ideas in an organized manner ... of relaxing while concentrating, of giving your sub-conscious free rein while maintaining structure on a conscious level, of precisely controlled chaos. It's an exquisite feeling, and one of the great gifts a frequent writer gives to himself,
Over the years of writing, I've grown more than comfortable with the idea of walking through this world with multiple occupants in my head. Some of them characters in my books, others are just voices and opinions that rattle around in there; I like having all of them inside of, and contributing to, me. Bits and pieces of some of them end up in my stories, others never get out of my skull except for the exercise-yard of the occasional writing prompt. Over time though, my writing has rendered me more comfortable with all of them (what I think of as my extended, internal, family). ;)
Related to some of the items mentioned above, but there's something additional, worth noting, that happens with frequent and repeated and longterm writing ... I have found that while I still enjoy my earlier works, I couldn't write them now. I've grown and changed in the process of writing hundreds of thousands of words, and my writing and thinking and worldview aren't those of the person who wrote my earlier works any longer. I cherish this concrete (to me) evidence of change over time.
Writing is a hard and lonely and tiring and boring and stressful process, and if you're able to complete your writing projects, particularly again and again and again, you're doing something remarkable ... something that deserves celebration and notice. It took me years to comfortably accept this idea, and now that I've finally embraced this idea, I've been able to extend it to other things and people in my life ... finding reasons to celebrate peoples' unique and exciting achievements.
The goal of writing my first novel was important to me personally, but not in any greater sense (either to me, or the world at large), but the fact that I was able to complete writing the rough draft in a month was magical on a number of levels. It gave me, and it will give you, the power that comes from the knowledge that you have set, and met, seriously challenging goals for yourself, and that you can go on to bigger and better and greater things form there..
Doing 'the impossible' (which writing and publishing multiple pieces of work over a number of years, while maintaining most of your sanity, arguably is) has a cumulative and ongoing effect, in that you aren't scared to reach ... even, possibly particularly, reaching for beyond-rational goals. The fear of failure diminishes, and without that fear, you are able to do greater and greater things (you may fail occasionally, but so what? People fail at things all the time ... how wonderful a luxury to fail at something spectacularly).