“I just can’t do that.”
That’s something I hear a lot. Hell, it’s something I find myself saying in my own head! “I just don’t have time for that today.” “I just can’t work on my novel this week.”
While we definitely owe ourselves space and grace, it’s important to challenge our self-talk and limiting beliefs so we can embrace our creativity and fully step into our writing lives. This all starts with your writing mindset.
What is a Writing Mindset?
Writers, more than any other group I know, live inside their heads. Writers are storytellers with big imaginations. It’s no wonder we spend so much time in our own minds, right?
And while cultivating our creativity is imperative for good writing, so is our mindset.
Mindset is all about the group of beliefs, assumptions, and patterns we live our lives by. Our mindset affects our behavior, emotions, and worldviews. Mindset affects literally everything in our lives, and cultivating a mindset for growth and abundance can help your writing.
(Please note that this post is about mindset and how to overcome creative blocks/concerns in your writing life and career. If you find you’re struggling and your problems run deeper, please take care of yourself and seek out a trusted mental health provider near you.)
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
When you approach a new task, like editing a podcast, do you think it’s beyond your skill set and you can never learn it? Or do you think that you can learn this new skill if you give put in time and practice?
That’s what the fixed vs. growth mindset battle boils down to.
When you have a fixed mindset, you believe your qualities, traits, and skills are fixed and can’t change. Instead of putting in the work to improve existing skills or learn new things, you simply don’t. You think those actions won’t yield results. Everything boils down to natural talent and pre-existing abilities.
When you have a growth mindset, you believe that your qualities, traits, and skills can change and grow over time. You believe effort and practice, more than raw talent, will help you be successful and achieve your goals.
Which one do you think lends itself to enhanced creativity, new opportunities, and long writing careers? Yeah, I think a growth mindset does, too. After all, a fixed mindset is the opposite of imagination and discovery, two key components of writing.
Scarcity vs. Abundance Mindset
Just like the fixed vs. growth dichotomy, there’s another set of beliefs crucial to mindset: scarcity vs. abundance.
Do you believe that writing (and publishing) are a zero-sum game? That the industry only has so much to offer? Think of it another way: there’s exactly one pie, and every time one person gets a piece, there’s less for everyone else. This is a scarcity mindset.
On the other hand, do you believe that there’s plenty to go around? That ideas, recognition, money, publishing contracts, and readers are plentiful and waiting to meet you? This is an abundance mindset.
What are Limiting Beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are simply beliefs that restrain us in some way. And by simply thinking these things, we make life (especially writing) harder and less fun than it has to be.
Our limiting beliefs show up as part of our mindset and like to take the form of an “I can’t/don’t/won’t/am not” statement. They stem from faulty logic, fear, and even our own experiences.
Going back to mindset, a fixed mindset produces limiting beliefs around your abilities and traits. A scarcity mindset produces limiting beliefs around your ideas and resources.
What are some ways limiting beliefs might show up in our writing lives?
Here are some examples of limiting beliefs through a fixed mindset:
- I can’t write unless I’m extremely inspired and it’s the perfect environment.
- I can’t be a writer because I don’t have an English degree.
- I’m bad at grammar so I can’t be a writer.
- My writing isn’t as good as <SOME FAMOUS AUTHOR> so I can’t be a published writer.
- I’m not good at writing descriptions and I can’t be good at them.
Here are some examples of limiting beliefs through a scarcity frame:
- I don’t have time to write.
- Every good idea has already been written by someone else.
- Other writers will steal my ideas if I share any details.
- No one will want to read my book.
These are just a handful of examples that I hear from writers on Instagram, my blog readers, and my coaching clients.
But don’t worry! It’s possible to challenge your mindset and limiting beliefs so that you can get back to writing.
Testing and Challenging Your Limiting Beliefs
Shame isn’t going to work when you want to challenge your limiting beliefs and mindset. We can’t bully ourselves into change. We need to approach our writing mindset (and our overall mindset) with compassion, kindness, and curiosity.
So, when you find yourself whispering those limiting beliefs to yourself, get curious. Ask yourself why you think that.
For example, if your limiting belief is that, “I can’t make time to write today,” ask why. What’s taking up your time?
If your answer is that you have other priorities (spouse/partner, kids, other work, etc.), give yourself some space! We all have to find balance in our lives. Some days won’t be writing days, and that’s okay. Make a plan to get back to your manuscript.
(Of course, you can’t simply say, “I’ll get to it later.” You also need to commit to finding a writing schedule that suits your life! 😉)
On the other hand, if you “can’t” write and find that it’s coming from a place of fear, dig deeper. Challenge yourself. Why are you scared of it? Why do you believe you can’t do it? What false narratives are you creating in your head?
Journal about it, talk to a trusted friend or colleague, or speak to a writing mentor/coach to work through these doubts and blocks.
And as I said at the beginning of the post, if you find your block runs deeper than creative concerns, please seek out a trusted mental health care provider near you.
How Can You Shift Your Mindset?
Mindset can be changed; it’s just something you have to practice and learn.
First, continue challenging your limiting beliefs. Continue to ask yourself why you believe those things, get curious, and be patient with yourself.
Second, recognize how unique you (and your stories) are. All of our stories are derivative of similar tropes, themes, and structures. Seriously–just Google it and you’ll find dozens of articles on the topic. Your story very may well follow the Hero’s Journey arc like so may before it. That’s okay!
What actually matters is that you bring your unique perspective and style of storytelling to your project. We’re all different, and our varied backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and experiences are what make our writing interesting.
Third, challenge yourself to learn new things. I’ll be honest, I still struggle with this one sometimes. I want to be good at things right away (who doesn’t?), so learning a new skill requires a lot of patience. If you find yourself identifying with a fixed mindset, try to learn one new thing. Just one!
It can be anything you want, but if you’re looking to learn something about writing, pick one thing and stick with it. Do you find that you use run-on sentences? Research how to fix these, then make an effort to fix them in your manuscript.
Finally, be okay with being uncomfortable. Growth is super uncomfortable, but it’s also critical for our creativity and progress as writers! If you find learning a new skill or trying a new style of writing uncomfortable, embrace it. Remind yourself that it’s only uncomfortable now because it’s new.
Mindset work is hard work. It’s something I work on for myself and one of the ways I work with clients. Be patient as you try to shift your perspective and beliefs.
So often, our own self-talk and beliefs limit our ability to grow and achieve what we want to achieve.
I don’t think it’s cheesy to say that as a human, you’re capable of so many amazing things. Truly — each one of us is full of potential! We just have to put some time into the inner work as well as our writing.
Still not sure how to shift your mindset?
Book a one-on-one call with me and I’ll help you understand your current mindset, identify your limiting beliefs, and step into your writing life.