I have a whole new appreciation for fiction writers. Though as both a reader and a writer, I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction writing about psychology, creativity, sociology and feminist issues, I do love a good story.
I was having scraps of cool story ideas and dialogue popping into my mind and staying there, that eventually seemed like they'd be great as part of a fictional story. So I figured, how hard can it be? Turns out it can be quite hard (at least for me). In addition to the general imagination taxation, writing fiction is definitely an exercise for the ego, because you have to be able to get around yourself, which can be a challenge for someone who often draws on her own experiences for guidance.
In that case, it's also an exercise in empathy. Writing about a fictional character requires you to construct someone who is not you, obviously. They may have a different life and personality from you , and they may make choices that differ from the ones you would make. You may not even particularly like the character you create. And yet. You can imagine each step in that person's thought process leading to each action they take. You know why they do what they do. Essentially, you can imagine another's reality, even if it's radically different from yours. That's a skill we all benefit from.
(By the way, I am thoroughly enjoying the thrill and distinct discomfort of doing something outside the ol' comfort zone!)