What’s your Writing Mindset?

analysis blackboard board bubbleHave you ever thought about the way you think? Most of the time we’re on autopilot, letting our thoughts come and go as our minds wander during our day-to-day lives. But, have you ever stopped to notice these thoughts and how they can influence your writing practice? Maybe you don’t believe they do; or perhaps you have noticed, but just don’t know how to change this.

True thoughts?
I know for a long time I accepted my thoughts as truth. And that’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. Every time I had a thought about how I wasn’t good enough, or that what I wrote was terrible, or even that I didn’t work hard enough to deserve to be published – I believed I was thinking the truth. It wasn’t until much later I learned that thoughts are pliable, and I am the one in control of them. In other words: I can choose what thoughts to listen to, and I can even mindfully think different ones to change my approach to anything – including my writing!

What’s a mindset anyway?
When it comes down to it, our mindset is simply the way we think. It includes our opinions, our attitudes, and even the way we approach tasks and set goals.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, imagine if I’m writing a short story for a competition I want to enter but it’s on a topic I don’t usually write about. I could sit here and think ‘this isn’t my thing’ or ‘I’m going to struggle with this’. But how do you think that this affects my ability to face the blank page? Alternatively, I could say ‘This is going to be a fun experiment’, or ‘I can apply my skills to this’. With this attitude, I typically find my approach to the task changes; meaning I feel confident to give it a try, and end up with something surprising on the page, instead of staring at the blinking cursor because I don’t feel I’m up to the task.

These ways of thinking are related to the type of mindset we each have: either a closed/fixed mindset, or an open/growth mindset.

Grow your Mind…
But what is it about a growth
 mindset that means it’s better for our writing? Well, it’s been shown that people with more open mindsets tend to achieve more, have better resilience in challenging situations (a.k.a. rejections!), and have a deeper desire for learning. Whereas, those with closed mindsets tend to look for an external need for approval, set expectations (instead of goals), and don’t cope well with failure.

Check out this video on how a growth mindset leads to higher achievement

As you can see, with a growth mindset failure is simply part of the learning process, and so it’s easier to move onward and upward: I try something; it doesn’t work, but I learn from it and try again. 

Identify the negative.
Now, when I’m stuck on a particular plot point in my novel and am struggling to find a solution I tend to just stop and monitor my mindset for a second. Am I worried that I won’t find an answer? Will I feel like a failure if I can’t figure it out? Or, can I tell myself this is a challenge that I could potentially enjoy because it’s developing my problem-solving skills? What about if I test out different options by exploring them in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style?

Suddenly, because I’ve modified my thinking, I could have lots of possible options to help solve my plot point, rather than a crippling fear that being unable to figure it out means I’m not good enough, or not really a writer.

See it in practice!
The easiest way to support the development of a growth mindset is to find some people who already have this attitude in life and spend time with them. They’re usually easy to spot; they’re reflective, positive individuals who won’t let opportunities go to waste, and rarely let excuses get in the way of their dreams. Learn from others by seeing how they approach challenges, and see if you can adopt the same. 

group hand fist bump

I was lucky enough to discover this by being a member of a group of amazing female entrepreneurs called the Wildly Successful Society. Here we build one another up, set exciting goals with positive projections of how we will succeed, and constantly review our progress to learn from things that don’t always go to plan.

Having a positive and reflective mindset can help us set better goals, commit to these in a strong, productive way, and help us get through the challenges of writing and editing our work. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who can lift us up when we recognise the negative thoughts spiralling can have an immense effect on our ability to pull ourselves back up and stand strong again. 


Now try this:

Notice Your Thoughts
Remember that you can’t change anything unless you notice your thoughts first. Don’t worry if this is hard to do to begin with; it takes time. Try this simple tip to increase your awareness: 

Set an alarm on your phone a few times a day to remind you to examine your thoughts and jot down whatever is on your mind. If you notice some of them are negative things: how could you re-frame these to alter your mindset?
(This is also great fodder for character development!)

The first step is always noticing what you’re thinking. Start there, and with practice and encouraging support, the rest is likely to come. In the end it should support the development of more constructive attitude toward those writing challenges we all face.


Let me know how you get on in the comments,
or Tweet Me @Cat_Lumb

How to start the best year yet

Ah, so that’s another year gone. Once upon a time I would lament all the things I had not managed to achieve – not getting an agent for the novel, not being published, or winning no competitions; hell, sometimes it was even not bothering to enter those competitions. Always the focus was on the things I didn’t do.

achievement confident free freedom

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Now, it’s different. Now I focus on the positives, the tasks I did get done, the accolades I have collected. Self-publishing my short story collection, being published in a Comma Press anthology, being shortlisted in a competition…Whatever the things I didn’t do, it doesn’t really matter. Do you know why? Because I still have chance to do all of those things in 2019.

Most of the things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and that’s fine. But there is a balance to be had. You don’t think about all the amazing stuff you did because you did it and it’s in the past, all of those tasks left undone those are the ones that bubble to surface instead. However, this new year I challenge you to flip this and make a huge, great list of everything you did do. Not just the successes, but the efforts too. It all counts. If you entered competitions and didn’t win, or submitted to an agent or three and heard nothing but rejections back – these tiny little slivers of effort demonstrates how you committed to your goals.

It should also be remembered that sometimes, we have no direct control over the outcomes. You can’t force an agent to sign you as a client, or make a judge choose your story as the winning entry – not really. So you shouldn’t be focusing on those types of ‘have nots’ anyway. If you submitted anything, that’s a win. That’s a clear sign of progress. Perhaps you didn’t submit at all, perhaps all you did was write more words, or manage to finish a story, or even just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards for the very first time. Celebrate these things. Even a small step forward is still the right direction. You only have control over your own actions, so all you can do is try your best and make it count.

Start 2019 with your head held high for all the positive action you took in 2018. Forget about the regrets, or the ‘should have done’ tasks, because they don’t really count. What matters is you made it. And if you should have any lingering regrets then write them down, figure out an action plan, and stick to it in the new year. Let’s face it, you don’t want to end 2019 with the same regret; right?

But the key thing is to remind yourself of all the good you did, and take that with you into the new year. That’s all you need; the truth of it is, starting the year with a positive mantra of all you have achieved will give you that much more confidence, and perhaps a pinch of bravery. And who knows what might come out of that…