If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard of Carol Dweck and her book Mindset, or maybe Po Bronson’s Nurture Shock, which references Dweck’s research. The theory behind Mindset is that children who adopt a fixed mindset—who believe that their intelligence and abilities are fixed and won’t change—don’t do as well during the middle school and high school years as children who adopt a growth mindset—who believe they have the power to improve their intelligence and abilities through hard work and practice. Often kids who are naturally gifted struggle as school becomes more difficult because they’ve been taught that they should be able to succeed based on their intelligence alone, that they shouldn’t have to work hard. Meanwhile, kids who have been taught a growth mindset develop good habits early on that carry into high school.
Reading an article titled “The Secret of Raising Smart Kids” in Scientific American Mind last week, it occurred to me how important it is for writers, too, to adopt a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, we see ourselves as good or bad writers, not writers who have the potential to grow and learn and improve our writing. When we’re rejected, we consider giving up. We assume we’re not good enough and will never get published. With a growth mindset, we view rejection as a challenge, a chance to learn and grow. We go back and take more writing classes, do more revision, hire a writing coach or editor, and work hard to improve our manuscript so that it has a better chance of securing an agent or book deal the next time we send it out.
As a writer friend who won a Pulitzer last year once said to me, “There are no good or bad writers, just good and bad writing.”
What do you think? Are some people naturally gifted writers? Or can writing be learned? What do you think a writer can do to increase his/her chances of being “naturally gifted”?