Growth Mindset for Writers

It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.

– Alfred Binet, inventor of the IQ test

As I’m in the final stages of my Grit for Writers book, I thought I’d share a section that was a real game-changer for me. Grit is our ability to stick with things that are important to us, and considering success with writing is more of a marathon than a sprint; considering the writing road is littered with rejection letters from publishers and one star reviews from readers; considering the competitive and flooded nature of the market; considering our own mind is our greatest critic and most vociferous doubter, I’ve come to the conclusion that grit is the key to writing success.

In Grit for Writers, my grit formula comprises of two parts — gritty mindset and gritty actions. Both are essential to success as a writer. Growth mindset is one component of gritty thinking; the part of our perspective that enables us to understand what our true potential is and see failure in a new way.

Growth mindset was a concept that sparked a light bulb moment for me. A life-changing moment. I had spent my whole life unaware I was entrenched in a fixed mindset. Growth mindset challenged my assumptions about what I am capable of and how I see my own failures, and at the same time, intuitively struck me as true. I’d been applying a growth mindset with my clients (in the belief they can do things differently, irrespective of how long a behaviour had been present) and as a teacher (in setting high expectations for my students because I believed they could always achieve more) and as a parent (in the belief my sons could reach their dreams if they applied themselves). But I had never really applied it to myself.

And then I discovered a book.

In Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential, Carol Dweck, psychologist and growth mindset expert, argues that our talent, intelligence, and abilities can change through hard work, dedication and the use of effective strategies. Basically, those with a growth mindset believe that their brain and abilities can grow with effort. They understand when they are learning or doing something new and challenging — oh, like writing a book that will sell enough to produce an income — they understand that hard work can help them accomplish their goals. They believe they can learn from challenges and set-backs. Potential is based on the amount of drive, energy and determination necessary to accomplish a task or goal.

Your other option is a fixed mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that abilities are ‘fixed’ — you’re either smart and talented or you’re not. Your talent level is inborn and therefore permanent. There’s no point trying because there is little we can do to improve our aptitude, and every failure we experience proves that very fact.

Let me demonstrate the difference between fixed and growth mindset.

Alex has always dreamed of being a writer. She has multiple manuscripts sequestered deep in her computer, most are unfinished, but one idea, one set of characters, wouldn’t go away. Over countless hours fitted around her day job and family, the story was written. With a trembling finger and a hopeful heart, Alex sent her newborn creation to six publishers. Over the next few months, two publishing houses sent their form rejections, three never responded. One stated she had ‘an interesting voice and engaging premise, but the story lost momentum.’

Fixed mindset Alex would reach the following conclusions:

‘I’ll never write anything good enough to be published.’

‘My writing isn’t good enough.’

‘I knew I wasn’t talented enough to make it.’

A fixed mindset tends to interpret setbacks as evidence you don’t have what it takes. How likely is Alex to keep going after these thoughts?

Growth mindset Alex would think the following:

‘This publisher may not have liked it, but another might.’

‘Right, so I haven’t mastered momentum yet. What do I need to do next?’

‘What can I learn from this?’

People with growth mindset believe they can grow, they reframe obstacles and setbacks as opportunities to learn.

Research has shown that having a growth mindset is one of the keys to building grit. Dweck also convincingly demonstrates that people with growth mindsets are overwhelmingly happier, healthier, more satisfied, and more prosperous and fulfilled in school, business, work, relationships, sports and life.

Here’s a handy summary that I’m going to print and stick on my wall as a reminder:

 

 

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

Effort

If you have to try, as in actually work for something, then you obviously don’t have talent. Effort is a necessary step to improvement. In fact, it’s the key to improvement.

Challenge

A challenge scares me, it’s something that should be avoided. What if I fail? Challenges excite me, they are a great opportunity for learning and growth.

Criticism

I’d rather not hear it, thank you very much. It’s only opinion anyway. I welcome your suggestions. I’m always open to feedback.

Failure

Obviously I don’t have talent. It just proves I wasn’t worthy. It makes me feel like giving up. Shows me more effort or better strategies are needed. It can be an opportunity for learning.

A Setback or Mistake

Sucks the wind right out of my sails – I totally lose confidence. Shows me an area for growth I hadn’t considered.

The End Result

All that potential flat lines.

Passion plummets.

The need to protect ourselves from the pain of disappointment and rejection dominates.

The likelihood of achieving your potential is severely compromised.

Potential is nurtured and developed.

Goals are achieved and extended.

Successful author status is within reach.

Oh yeah, and you enjoy the journey.

Grit for Writers includes handy worksheets on each of the grit components, meaning there’s a useful activity for readers to complete after seeing the value growth has to offer. I’ll keep you posted as to when it’s published so you can gain the benefits I believe grit provides every writer.

Until then, I’d love to hear what you think of growth mindset. Do you naturally tend to fixed mindset or growth mindset? Can you see the value of fostering growth mindset on your road to writing success? Comments and feedback always make me smile. Connecting with others is why I write. You can comment below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Have a wonderful week,

Tamar

 

6 comments

  1. Sounds like Dweck and you are challenging the classical ‘Tyranny of Low Expectations’.

    Excuse my typical Gestaltishness (a word I just invented) but I think I have both Growth AND Fixed mindsets, and, even worse, something of a ‘Contraction Mindset’ which tells me I’m not just fixed but unfixable, if I may mix a metaphor, and getting worse.

    My negative Mindsets also warn that neither Dweck’s nor your book will make a difference. But my Growth Mindset says buy and read both and I’m going to follow that advice.

    Thanks, Tamar!

    Like

    1. Hi John – I always love your honesty 🙂 I truly believe in the power of high expectations (for myself and for others), but I work with people that struggle to to achieve that on a regular basis (to be honest, sometimes that person is me!), so I know where you’re coming from. I think the optimism that it can be achieved is what’s important (along with the realism that it won’t always happen). I’m keen to hear what you think of Grit now!
      PS Anyone is fixable…if that’s what they want 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not read this one (but I will put it on my list!) but a book I read ages ago helped open my thinking: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. It shows how to flip the switch on dealing with upset or friction, going from a “judging” mindset that spirals into negativity (I failed because I am inept, I suck, etc.) to a “learning” mindset through growth-oriented Questions (What Can I learn from this? What Can I change next time for a different outcome?). It was a business-focused book, but it helped me deal with rejection and focus on what I could control, not obsess about what I couldn’t.

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That sounds like an interesting book Angela! Yeah, learning about growth mindset was a game changer for me (which is why I had to share it!). It’s meant I can reframe so many conclusions my mind likes to make…Now it’s all about the journey and growing with it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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