Ep 166: How to Be a Better Writer (Pt 1): Start with the Right Mindset
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.