Dr Carol Dweck is a psychologist and growth mindset expert who wrote Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential. In it, she suggests that you either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. And you can change your mindset; it’s not a static characteristic.
What is a mindset?
The dictionary defines "mindset" as:
- The established set of assumptions and attitudes held by someone
What you believe, your assumptions and attitudes affect your behavior. And how you behave determines your future. Behavior leads to action and actions lead to results.
Your mindset is created through your experiences in life, your upbringing, your culture, and your environment. Each influences your mindset rather significantly.
Fixed vs. growth mindset
Dr Dweck identifies two mindsets in her book: you either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes they have inherent, unchangeable talents and abilities, while someone with a growth mindset believes they can develop new talents and abilities through learning and hard work.
It’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s basically an unconscious reaction to challenges. Let’s say you write a manuscript and send it out to agents. None want to represent you but some said you have potential. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe your manuscript isn’t "good enough" and you’re just not a talented writer. But if you have a growth mindset, you see that response as promising and you wonder what steps you can take to improve. Or you believe if you send your manuscript to more agents, someone will probably bite.
Consider how you handle critiques of your work. Do you get defensive, or do you figure out how to learn from others’ comments? With a growth mindset, you’re able to see feedback as non-threatening and not as a sign of inability.
How mindset affects your future
A growth mindset encourages creativity. You’re not afraid to take risks and really put yourself out there in your writing. A fixed mindset holds you back, tries to keep everything within the realm of what it considers possible. But what it considers possible is not your greatest potential, so you’ll never extend beyond safe or mediocre.
Your mindset sets the stage for your success or failure at writing. If you have a fixed mindset, you think you don’t have the innate talent or ability to write. You’re always trying to prove yourself, that you’re smart enough or you know enough. And at the first sign of a setback, you’re more liable to give up.
A growth mindset leads to continuous learning. You see challenges and setbacks as a learning experience, something from which you can grow and change. That seeps into your writing as well. You view your potential as based on the amount of energy, grit and determination you bring to your writing, and you’re not afraid to stretch yourself in new ways.
Creating a growth mindset
If you believe Dr Dweck, mindset is changeable. So how can you create a growth mindset? Here are a few tips.
1. Continuously learn new skills
Successful authors recommend two things: always study your craft and never give up. Part of never giving up is to not fear rejection because you will face rejection in your writing career. View your failures and rejections as a learning experience. What can you take away from a setback and grow or improve on? Say to yourself, "That didn’t work, so this time, I’ll do something different."
There are so many great books on writing craft out there. We’ve recommended several in our blog posts from a variety of experts on a wide range of subjects. Or you can find an online writing course or attend a class at the local community college. Constantly learn and absorb the art and craft of writing because a growth mindset believes your abilities are not fixed or stuck, but you can grow and improve.
2. Write like it’s your job
Even if you have a day job, treat writing as your profession. Set aside time to devote to it and approach it like you would any other serious commitment. You can’t flake out and not show up to your day job, right? So if you want to be a professional writer, you must show up and write every day.
Treat your writing goals with respect and professionalism. If you want it to be more than just a hobby, you must act the role. When you take your writing seriously, others will, too. So, believe you are a professional writer and behave accordingly.
3. Be willing to try new things
Part of a willingness to try new things and experiences is not being afraid of failure, errors or setbacks. Learn to take them in your stride and consider how you can learn from them. When you put yourself out there and are open to new experiences, you learn a lot about yourself as well. And that translates into better, deeper writing.
A growth mindset means you’re always striving to achieve your potential while not believing your potential is a fixed element. Abraham Maslow’s famous psychological theory placed self-actualization at the top of our hierarchy of needs. Maslow said, "What a man can be, he must be." Always strive to reach your full potential in writing and in life.
Thomas Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration." It takes hard work and the right mindset to be the best "you" possible.
We’re not suggesting that if you put your mind to it and work hard, you can be anything you want. After all, I’m 5 feet tall in heels, so I’ll never be in the WNBA. We suggest that a professional writer is someone who commits to treating it with the importance it deserves and is someone who doesn’t give up. Ever.
So fake it til you make it.