Writing with a Growth Mindset
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my coaching business is watching new writers complete their passion projects. There’s nothing like the excitement of a client who just typed the words ‘the end.’ The truth is that everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone wants to put that story into words (which is okay!) but those that do typically choose one of two paths: write the story themselves or find someone else to write it.
Ironically, many of my coaching relationships started as ghostwriting relationships. One of my first writing clients reached out to me and said something along the lines of, “I have a book idea I’m really excited about. I tried to write it, but I’m not very good. If I sent you an outline, would you be able to write this?”
The tragic part of this kind of statement is that these folks often truly believe that they are incapable of writing their stories. This fixed mindset has even prevented some of them from trying to write at all.
A fixed mindset tells us that our abilities end where our failure begins. It tricks us into thinking that we are either born with the ability to write or we aren’t. Anxiety is often a close companion to this mindset. It forces folks to avoid writing altogether to prevent any unnecessary failures. Instead of seeing feedback and failure as an opportunity to improve, folks with a fixed mindset see it as a personal attack on their abilities.
On the other hand, a growth mindset tells us that our abilities are limitless. It tells us that feedback and failure are simply tools through which we learn and grow in our writing craft. People with a growth mindset often love to learn new things, which allows them to approach their challenges with fervor.
If you are sitting on a writing idea but are fearful of the writing process, consider these tips to help you build a growth mindset:
1. Behave like a writer. If you want to be a writer and you want to see those two magical words at the end of your story, you need to write. If possible, it is ideal to write every day, regardless of the word count. Even a few sentences are better than nothing. The more you write, the better your writing will get. It’s that simple.
2. Ignore labels and stereotypes. I’ve had clients tell me that they can’t write because they are too ‘math-minded’ or ‘analytical.’ Unfortunately, I see this a lot with folks in the STEM field. This simply isn’t true. You can learn any skill you desire, regardless of your career path. If you are an engineer who has a romance novel in your brain, start writing it, and ask for feedback. You’ll be halfway through your novel in no time.
3. Seek out negative feedback. One of the most infuriating pieces of feedback I ever got was, “This was good.” This is about as helpful as no feedback. I have never read an interview with an author who didn’t say that they thought of ways to improve the novel even after it was published. Ask your beta readers and editors what you could be doing better. Ask for feedback that will make the story more compelling, more relatable, more emotional, etc. Don’t settle for lazy comments. Your writing will only get better if you hear and implement constructive feedback.
Let’s go back to the client I mentioned earlier. As I wrote the first few chapters of their novel, I also commented on the creative storyline, the impressive plot development, and the lovable characters. Six months after I started, this person informed me that they would take a stab at finishing out the novel. Instead of ghostwriting, they requested my help with coaching and editing. It was an incredible transformation. Through coaching and constructive feedback, their writing improved tremendously. When they finally wrote the words ‘the end,’ the pride that emanated from them was like nothing I had ever witnessed.
Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.” If you want to type ‘the end’ in your own novel or writing project, all you need to do is start writing now, learn from the feedback you get along the way, and become the writer you always wanted to be.