When you’re hunched over a computer, it can be hard to believe in yourself. Developing a growth mindset as a writer will help you keep working on you craft when it seems impossible.

Developing a Growth Mindset as a Writer

Original photo by Todd Trapani

The older I get, the more I realize that I have nothing figured out and I have so far to go. This could be demoralizing, but I’m choosing not to let it get me down. No one has it all figured out, and you should be very skeptical of anyone who says they do. But even though no one knows the answers, I know that a growth mindset makes it easier to approach this uncertainty.

Developing a growth mindset as a writer is key to attaining any level of success as a writer. And while success is defined by each individual writer, I do know that it takes a growth mindset to tackle projects as long and arduous as writing novels.

Example: I wrote 55,000 words this summer, most of them in July. And in August, I realized that I needed to add another POV character, and reframe some relationships. These changes make about 30,000 of those words irrelevant. Obviously, that sucks eggs on ice for breakfast eight ways till Sunday.

But I couldn’t have figured this out if I didn’t get so far into the story. But that’s kind of the process of writing.

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I am reworking a lot of the outline for this novel, and I’m planning to conquer it in November for NaNoWriMo. And I’m definitely going to keep my head up about it. How? With a growth mindset, obvi.

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Developing a Growth Mindset as a Writer

001: Know the first draft will suck.

I can’t emphasize this enough. The first draft is where you get words out of your brain and onto the page. It’s where you realize you need to make some pretty big changes in your overall story. It’s where you get a feel for what it is you’re doing.

If you approach the first draft with the notion that you won’t make any edits, or that you’ll be able to bash out perfect sentences every single time, then you’re in for a world of hurt. By acknowledging that the first draft will suck, you basically give yourself enough wiggle room to work out the kinks in your story instead of getting paralyzed by perfectionism.

002: Don’t seek external approval.

You should definitely get an editor to look at your work, but you should totally not expect everyone who reads your work to absolutely love it and shower you with praise. That’s generally not how it’s going to work. And putting the value you have of yourself as a writer and of your work in the hands of others is a recipe for pain.

It’s a damn struggle, but if you can divorce yourself from the gold stars and approval of outsiders, you’re going to be a much better writer, and your story will be yours. And while you should write with an audience in mind, you shouldn’t write to please that audience over everything else. Sometimes your audience should be angry or offended or scared. Writing something that’s just pleasant all the time is basically like creating the literary equivalent of chicken nuggets. It’s good, but it’s not great.

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(I mean, I’ve written about the dangers of bad critiques before…)

003: Try different writing routines and methods.

The growth mindset lets you take some time to try new things. I’m addicted to trying new things and figuring out better ways to work, so this is my favorite part of developing a growth mindset as a writer. If you feel that maybe your routine could use some improving, maybe you should try a new way of outlining.

By giving yourself some room to play with techniques you’ve never tried before, you’re making it easier on yourself to grow as a writer. Ultimately, my goal as a writer is to get better. I want to consistently progress with every last thing I write. And the only way I can do that is to try new things all the time.

004: Learn to enjoy writing, not having written.

This is one of those “embrace the process” types of things. But I have to say, it’s probably the hardest for me. I’m definitely focused on getting my writing done. I want to hit my writing goals and I love seeing my word count creep up. The problem with that is, that it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for me to just enjoy sitting and writing.

I realized this when I went to St. Francis of the Woods for my writing retreat. I just opened a blank document and let myself write. That netted a novella. Which is weird to think about. But when you just let yourself go through the process of writing, it becomes a lot easier to just write, and to write something you enjoy. It was probably the first time since I was 20 that I enjoyed writing, which is really depressing to say.

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005: Give yourself time to reflect on your work and progress.

You have to take stock of what it is you’ve done. I love looking at my writing now versus then. Hell, I’ve been known to scroll through the archives on this here blog just to see how far I’ve come. And, if I’m being honest, to see what I used to do that I miss doing.

Taking time to think about how far you’ve come is a great way to appreciate all the growth you’ve achieved as a writer. For me, developing a growth mindset as a writer has enabled me to appreciate what I’m capable of now, and I can’t wait to see how far I have to go.

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How Do You Think Writers Can Develop a Growth Mindset?

What’s worked best for you when it comes to developing a growth mindset? What new routines and methods do you want to embrace in your writing process? Do you enjoy the act of writing? How do you note how far you’ve come as a writer? Let me know in the comments!

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