“No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
I can’t tell you the number of arguments I have with my son about spellings.
He hates learning them, I hate testing him.
On more than one occasion, he’s left the room and stomped upstairs, muttering all manner of things under his breath. The word ‘stupid’ features more than any other.
You see my son is a perfectionist. He wants to get every spelling right, every single time. If he gets it wrong, he doesn’t want to hear about it. He’s not interested in the correct version. As far as he’s concerned, I can stick the test sheet in my pipe and smoke it.
It’s the teacher’s fault if he can’t spell things correctly. Not his.
You see, my son has a fixed mindset. Getting all the answers right is what matters, not the effort he’s put in or the lessons that could be learned to improve next time. Some of it is mindset, most of it is autism. But it’s fixed nonetheless.
When I taught in the classroom, children with a fixed mindset were the hardest to teach.
Because learning from their mistakes and improving didn’t matter to them. Getting full marks did.
And where did a lot of this fixed mindset come from? Their homes. From parents who firmly believed that getting 100% was all that mattered.
For some children, the pressure is too much. The constant desire to achieve full marks takes over their lives and they become obsessed with it. Getting anything less than 100% is catastrophic.
The process of discovering and learning something new is destroyed.
Goodbye personal growth, hello burnout.
Fixed V Growth
So what exactly is a fixed mindset? How is it different to a growth mindset? And, most importantly, what does this mean for writers?
In 2006, Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University wrote a book called
Mindset: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential. It changed the way the world understood success and achievement.
In the book, Dweck established two types of mindset and explored their impact on an individual’s happiness and success.
People with a fixed mindset assume that character, intelligence and creative abilities are static and can’t be changed. Success, therefore, must come from the intelligence we inherit.
If you have a fixed mindset, you avoid failure at all costs and do your utmost to maintain that you’re ‘smart’ or ‘skilled.’ You fear inadequacy and avoid challenge.
Those with this mindset only want to hear results and are not interested in how they could further improve, particularly if they get a question wrong.
Individuals with a growth mindset, however, are the complete opposite. They see failures as opportunities for growth. If they don’t get 100%, they want to know why and, crucially, how they could improve next time.
With a growth mindset, you want to improve and strengthen your abilities. You have a thirst for learning, not a hunger for approval.
‘Failures’ are perceived as ‘learning opportunities’ and are used to succeed in the future. Those with a growth mindset are always asking questions and seeking answers. People with this type of mindset often embrace failure as they know that important lessons will come from it.
The Importance of a Growth Mindset for Writers
As writers, we face a great deal of rejection in our pursuit of publication and success. Sometimes it’s from an agent or publisher and sometimes it’s negative reviews from readers.
If it’s not rejection, it’s the process of writing. A saggy middle, a confusing plotline or characters who are about as believable as Donald Trump’s hairpiece, story-writing can really test our dedication to the craft.
The urge to give up will rear its ugly head and tempt you to close your laptop for good.
So we need to be ready to deal with it all.
Establishing a growth mindset can help enormously. But what does it look like in reality?
Top Growth Mindset Tips
- When rejection calls, seek the lessons that you can learn from the experience. If you’ve had feedback, take on board the points made. It’s likely that the person giving it has the skills and experience to make that judgment. Listening will help you improve.
- If you face a negative review, remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion. The last bad meal you ate or the last bad film you watched, someone else probably loved it. If you receive lots of bad reviews, do the reviewers have a point? Could you learn or change something?
- Allow failure to happen – don’t shy away from it. I sent my manuscript off recently and it was rejected. I felt gutted for a day or two, but then brushed myself down and realised that failure is part of learning. In the classroom, we talk about an acronym for FAIL – First Attempt In Learning.
- Enjoy the ride. Writing is something that takes practise. We must show up for training and enjoy the experience. Grab all the materials you can; books, courses, coaches etc… and learn.
- Avoid striving for perfection. It ain’t gonna happen. What’s perfect in one reader’s mind is awful in another’s. We can improve the process, not the outcome. And whatever the outcome is, we can learn from it.
- If you have a fixed mindset, you’ll feel certain that creative ability is determined. If you don’t believe you have the ‘right’ creative ability, you won’t seek to improve. Get rid of this mindset and you’ll soon start to see improvements. Every writer can improve and learn something new every day.
Only 25% of our IQ/ intelligence is inherited. That leaves a massive 75% that can be improved.
That’s a lot of ‘space’ for growth.
Unfortunately, mindset is developed at an early age. Schools work with children from as young as four and five, to help them develop a growth mindset. This encourages them to be inquisitive, open-minded and naturally curious.
But what about writers like us who didn’t experience the value of learning about growth mindset at school?
Well, it’s never too late to start. As a family, we have embraced a growth mindset for the last three years. We praise the effort, not the outcome. We encourage questioning, trial and error, and celebrate failure.
It is part of who we are.
But it’s not always easy. Spelling tests are still an issue! But the overall impact it’s had on my children and me, as well as my husband and colleagues, is overwhelming.
My author mindset has been improved too. Whereas before I would have thrown away the rejected manuscript, I now look and see what I could do better. I take advice and act upon it.
For how we perceive success and failure in our personal and professional lives dictates how happy we are.
And I want to be a happy writer.
I also want to be successful. I know I still have plenty to learn and that I will fail many more times along the way. But I’m okay with it and you should be too.
Because nothing worth having comes easily, right?
Do you have a growth mindset? Or is yours fixed? What changes have you seen when changing your mindset? Leave your comments below and let’s dive in!