Last week, we started to explore a fear that haunts many writers, which is the fear that they aren’t good enough.
Or they think they aren’t enough. I hope you’ve explored the root of this fear and other fears that hold you back as a writer. I hope you’re ready to move past the fears.
Instead of worrying, wondering, or fearing you aren’t good enough to write, you’re going to do something about it. You’re going to be a better writer.
For the next few weeks, we’re going to introduce, review, and practice some things we can do to improve, so that we’re getting better all the time.
Ernest Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” In other words, we’ll always be growing and changing as writers. When we have a beginner’s mindset—when we see ourselves as an apprentice—we can continue to learn. Even those who feel confident in their writing skills can discover room for growth. We are all apprentices capable of becoming better writers.
Believe You Can Change
It sounds so simple, but any writer can get trapped in the belief they are stuck where they are in a kind of personal stasis—they assume their writing skills and ability are finite and unchangeable.
The beginner’s fixed mindset
This fixed mindset can haunt the insecure writer who feels he is trapped in mediocrity, unable to evolve and improve. He believes he’ll never be good enough to submit his work to a journal or agent.
He believes he wasn’t born with that gift of writing, so there’s only so far he can go. He settles into the space he feels he’s allowed to occupy and sort of gives up.
The experienced writer’s fixed mindset
The thing is, this static mentality—this fixed mindset—can also plague the more experienced writer who’s found some degree of success. He settles into a comfort zone, seeing that he can consistently turn out material at about the same level of quality and readers continue to respond with enthusiasm.
Why change? Why grow? “Why fix what ain’t broke?” he thinks. So he writes without stretching himself, satisfied with how his writing life has unfolded and where it’s taken him. He sees no need to grow beyond this.
Both writers, stuck
I’m glad for those who have reached goals and arrived at some level of success. Congratulations. But I confess…I hope to encourage those writers to believe they, too, can get even better and write even more challenging and captivating projects, whatever they may be.
So wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, I’m going to try to change your mind and your mindset.
If you feel you weren’t born with the writing gene and you believe have no hope of improving, I’m telling you, it’s time to learn about—and even test—the growth mindset.
If you’ve built publishing credits and produced an impressive portfolio of work—if you’ve sold books and hit bestseller lists—you, too, can improve. You’ve been received well, but you can be an even better writer.
Because we all can.
None of us is stuck or static.
Embrace the Growth Mindset
If you’ve been told only some people are natural born writers who emerged into the world with some kind of supernatural artistic gifts, that’s a fixed mindset, and the fixed mindset causes us to slam a door that was actually standing wide open to us.
This belief is supported by plenty of outliers we can point to—people for whom writing does seem easy, whose work astounds.
But writing skills can be learned and writers—even so-called natural-born writers, if they exist—are not locked into one level of greatness. None of us needs to feel stuck, yet many of us cling to the fixed mindset. “Oh, that’s not for me. I’m not a great writer. I can’t do that.”
Everything Is “Figureoutable”
The growth mindset reflects reality.
Someone with a growth mindset says everything is “figureoutable.” Marie Forleo uses this word—this phrase—in her videos and attributes it to her mother. It’s a fun and freeing attitude toward life and work.
Instead of fretting at the start of your next writing project, try believing that every element of the project—from the structure, tone, plot, pace, and word choice to the transitions, topic, and themes—everything is “figureoutable.”
With this kind of growth mindset—that you can figure it all out—you approach every aspect of the process with openness, creativity, and curiosity.
You’ll experiment to find the best structure. You’ll play with words to find the best sound. You’ll learn a new writing trope and incorporate it into your next project.
Don’t Let the Fixed Mindset Hold You Back
A writer with a growth mindset says, “Hey, I’ll try it without worrying about what others think or what the final outcome ends up looking like. I’ll just try. I’ll work hard. I’ll get better.”
Embrace a growth mindset and you can work to develop writing skills. And you can improve them over time even when you think you’ve plateaued.
Once you see how a fixed mindset has been holding you back and a growth mindset brings you freedom and possibility, you’ll never want to go back to that stunted way of thinking. Believe you can be a better writer, because you can.
The Discomfort of Being a Beginner
The growth mindset invites you to new places and spaces. You may try a kind of writing that’s unfamiliar, for example, and you feel unsure of yourself—like a beginner.
That’s because when it comes to that particular project or style, you are a beginner. There’s nothing wrong with that. Simply recognize that when you’re new to something, you’re new to it. You’re essentially a beginner. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable, and you’re positioned for growth.
Get used to seeing first attempts that feel clunky.
A fine artist adept at acrylics may not feel confident facing a giant block of clay or marble. Similarly, a novelist who attempts poetry may lack confidence as he faces the challenge of line breaks, rhythm, and rhyme schemes. Poetry feels strange and unfamiliar to the novelist just as the medium of clay feels strange and unfamiliar to the acrylic artist.
Once that painter starts manipulating the clay, she may complete a project and stare at it in disgust. “Why did I even try!” She’s not comfortable feeling uncomfortable and she hates turning out disappointing work.
If only she could embrace the growth mindset and understand that disappointment and discomfort are part of the process!
That was her first sculpture! She’s a beginner in this new medium, so she will improve the more she practices and applies her newfound skills and abilities.
As writers push themselves to new levels and experiment with new techniques, they may produce a lot of disappointing work at first. But if a writer can get comfortable feeling uncomfortable and embrace her disappointing early attempts, she will grow. She will become a better writer.
There’s Always Room for Growth
Start with right mindset, and you’ll start to see awkward passages and childlike phrases as the first stages on your way to integrating new skills and techniques into your work.
If you step out into a new project and you’re stumped about where to next, it is figureoutable. Ask for advice. Hop on the Internet for suggestions. Reach out to a friend. Ask a question in a Facebook group for writers.
You are smart, creative, curious, and ready to try new things. You want to be a better writer? Start with the right mindset that believes you can always, always improve.
Start every writing session with the belief that you can and will improve—that you are improving, with every idea you express and every word you select.
Don’t stop now. Don’t stop ever. There’s always room for growth. You can be a better writer…with the right mindset. Believe it!
- Ep 109: Improve Your Writing with a Growth Mindset
- Ep 165: Writing Fears and How to Overcome Them: Feeling Not Good Enough
- Marie Forleo: Everything Is Figureoutable (on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday)
- Ep 127: The Paralysis of Perfectionism
- Ep 166: How to Be a Better Writer (Pt 1): Start with the Right Mindset
- Ep 167: How to Be a Better Writer (Pt 2): 3 Simple Tweaks You Can Try Today
- Ep 168: How to Be a Better Writer (Pt 3): Write Tight
- Ep 169: How to Be a Better Writer (Pt 4): Boost All 7 Traits of Great Writing
- Ep 170: How to Be a Better Writer (Pt 5): Four Writing Tips
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