Hey! Welcome back to my blog. 2020 was a tough year but whatever battles you fought, you made it to 2021! Take a minute to toast yourself… Now let’s talk about the energy we’re bringing into this year.
Before we start I’m going to admit something; I was scared to write this post. Why? I guess because I’d taken a couple of weeks off to enjoy the Christmas season, the weather (I’m in Australia and the sun has finally come out!) and to spend time with family and friends. But when it was time to come back to blogging, I hesitated. It wasn’t the fear of the blank page; I was scared of putting myself out there again. So instead of blogging about great writing tips we can learn from Ray Bradbury (that’s next week’s post) I decided that it was important to start the year discussing our mindset and what we’re going to focus on in 2021.
Over my break I went away for three days and while I was in the shower I was listening to ‘The Jasmine Star Show’ podcast. Jasmine helps entrepreneurs build and market their brands and develop a life they love. She’s one of my favourite people to listen to (along with Amy Porterfield and Marie Forleo) because she doesn’t just talk business; she also talks about the internal challenges we all face no matter what field we’re in. The episode I was listening to was from November 3rd, ‘How to handle bad days as an entrepreneur’, and wow did it resonate! Her message was to choose your hard. Maybe you’re thinking ‘but what does that even mean?’ Let’s put it in a writer’s context:
Hard option A) Finish your manuscript – Writing a manuscript is damn hard work. Not only do you have to come up with a story, you have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), get to know and understand your characters, build their world, describe their plights, generate conflict and get all this down in a way that draws your audience in and makes them want to know what’s going to happen next.
Hard option B) Don’t finish your manuscript – To not write means that you will have an untold story (and a host of characters) banging around in your mind, trying to break out and throw themselves into the world to get to the people who need to hear their story. That’s also damn hard.
So, choose your hard!
In order to fulfil option A, let’s talk about the one thing we’re bringing to 2021 – A GROWTH MINDSET! Maybe you’ve looked into this or maybe you haven’t, but along with reading and writing it’s become my favourite topic to discuss. I read a lot of self-development books last year but the one that really spoke to me was ‘Mindset’ by Dr Carol Dweck. Dr Dweck discusses the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and describes them as follows:
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.Carol Dweck
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.Carol Dweck
From a writing perspective, a growth minded individual knows that they must write thousands upon thousands of words in order to develop the skill required to write a really great novel (many accomplished writers including Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman also stress this point). In this mindset, if you truly believe that writing is your calling, you will continue to write even as the rejection letters come in because you know that eventually you will get that one acceptance letter that kicks off the rest. Stephen King used to have a nail above his desk where he stuck his rejection letters and these spurred him on!
If you’re of the fixed mindset though, your ability to write will be hindered because you believe that if you don’t get it right the first time then you don’t have the talent required to ever succeed, so that first rejection letter will be the end of any possible writing career. That’s if you even manage to face the blank page and complete a manuscript in the first place because hey, no manuscript equals no rejection, which means you can continue to believe in your natural talent. This fixed mindset stunts your growth and puts a harsh stop to fulfilling your dreams.
To say the mindset concept changed my life is premature, but I will say that it changed the way I view anything that comes my way. From writing to communicating to dealing with both small and monumental problems it has encouraged me to begin to develop a positive mindset and, instead of getting frustrated or giving up or not even starting something, to ask ‘what can I learn from this?’ and to think ‘the more I practice the better I will get.’
The more I read the more I realised I have a lot of the attributes of the fixed mindset, and I know it will take work to break out of that mindset, but it can be done! Dr Dweck gives many examples of successful individuals with the growth mindset as well as showing the downfalls of those individuals with the fixed mindset. She includes school aged kids in low socioeconomic areas, famous sports stars, and both notorious and inspiring CEOs plus more.
Just this month I read ‘Everything is Figureoutable’ by Marie Forleo, which is a great example of the growth mindset in play. Marie is a thought leader and helps people build the life they want and achieve their dreams. In her book, she talks about challenges she has faced and overcome by believing in the concept that, yep, everything is figureoutable! She also includes testimonies from people who have adopted this mindset and overcome challenges in their lives. Chapter 8 ‘Progress not Perfection’ in particular aligns perfectly with the growth versus fixed mindset concept and Marie references Dr Dweck’s work. She discusses that while great work is something to aim for, perfectionism isn’t a good thing to aspire to, that in fact it can be deadly. She references three studies which proved that perfectionism correlates with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, shorter lifespans and other mental health problems (references to these studies are included in Marie’s book).
Damn, and to think I used to write ‘I’m a perfectionist’ on my resume *awkward laugh, wipes brow*. Marie promotes progress and says to not get discouraged, that progress isn’t linear and can involve a lot of loops and steps backwards before moving forward. Don’t give up! Learn what you can from situations and keep moving forward. One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from the great Martin Luther King Jr:
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.Martin Luther King Jr.
You’re first draft isn’t going to be the best – that’s what a second, a fifth, a fiftieth rewrite is for, so keep writing. Your characters may be underdeveloped at the moment – get a notepad, sit with your characters and understand what makes them tic and keep writing. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by your plot and feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew – take a deep breath, write some notes to flesh out the main areas you want to write about, get rid of or save the rest for another time and keep writing.
This year we’re growing, we’re learning, we’re writing, and best believe we’re enjoying every minute of it! We’re going to learn from and love the journey, every single moment of it, and when we don’t we’re going to sit back, remember that every word on the page is progress and every sentence is bringing us one step closer to our dream, and keep going. 2021 is the year of the growth mindset and the finished manuscript!
You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.Jodi Picoult
Have you read the books I’ve mentioned? What did you think? Do you have any other book recommendations on growth and progress? Please comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,