This Mindset Fails You as a Writer
It’s all in the head.
It’s hard not to get romantic about writing.
After all, it is your passion and what you love to do. You would do anything to write for a living. You would do anything to write your way to riches. But the thing is, it is tough to make that happen. Most writers who aspire to do so fail.
It is not because they lack belief in themselves or because they don’t work hard enough. It is because of the way they approach writing.
Through my journey as a writer, I noticed how most writers think, act, and perceive the craft of writing. I saw it everywhere; in YouTube comments, Reddit, Facebook groups, and other platforms. I saw how their passion mindset is holding them back.
It is like a plague that takes over most beginners’ minds and even some veterans. Only a few uncommon people perceive it as a skill that they can master with practice from the get-go.
Sixteen months ago, I wasn't one of those uncommon beginners. My passion was writing, and I wanted to become a professional writer. I wanted to become a professional writer so bad. Like most writers, I got too romantic about writing — about my passion — and because of that, I didn’t write every day. I felt like a fraud and was limiting myself and what I can do with this skill.
I credit achieving incredible writing goals to the craftsman mindset I developed. I would never have had the courage to pursue writing for a living with the passion mindset.
Even though I got a lot more experienced as a writer, the passion mindset raids my mind from time to time. It seems that every writer at every level is in danger of this mindset.
I don’t want to judge George RR Martin. But if he had completely got rid of his passion mindset, he won’t struggle with writer’s block anymore. It probably wouldn’t have taken him more than a decade to release the next book in his legendary series ASOIAF.
Writers should pull the trigger on this mindset before it cripples them. It’s hard to kill, but at least we can try.
Here’s where the passion mindset fails you as a writer and the steps to develop the mindset you need instead:
Where the Passion Mindset Fails You as a Writer
“Craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world. The passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you. This mindset is how most people approach their working lives.” — Cal Newport
Several researchers from Stanford and NUS Business School conducted a study. It revealed that when people with a fixed passion mindset face inevitable challenges, they will be more likely to quit their interest.
The passion mindset makes you perceive your passion as easy and shouldn’t feel like work.
That’s why when I had this mindset, I couldn’t write every day. Although I was very disciplined, I still wasn’t able to be as consistent as a professional writer. I thought that because it was my passion, my writing should be compelling from the start. I disliked the fact that it will suck for a long time.
That’s one of the problems with the passion mindset. A lot of writers don’t like starting in the trenches. Often, they get too romantic about writing and think every word they write will be world-changing.
This mindset doesn’t help them embrace the grit, the hustle, and being underdogs. The passion mindset fails us writers in so many aspects. Here is five of them:
A Narrow Focus, Limited Knowledge
Narrowing your focus on one field will prevent you from developing in other areas. That could be crucial for your success.
The passion study found that a fixed passion mindset makes you less likely to explore other areas outside of your interest area. To become a successful writer, a narrow focus and not diversifying your knowledge is a fat no.
Not only is diversifying your expertise great to use it in business, marketing, or other fields, but it even helps you in writing. The more you know, the more you can write.
Focus on writing, but explore other areas. The passion mindset makes people think there is only one passion, which is ridiculous. You can have diverse passions, and they can change and also be developed, according to the study.
I’m passionate about writing as well as boxing, marketing, and business. Being open to other areas and combining my knowledge and expertise opened up doors for me. Since I began diving into marketing, I learned new ways of better monetizing my writing skill. I learned how to combine the two skills to achieve more.
Be flexible if you want to survive as a writer — let alone thrive — and diversify your expertise. Become resourceful.
Beginner Approach — Starting Small
Ya know what kind of advice I also dislike? Start small.
Look, I get that this is a decent approach if you’re new to writing, and it helps to build that mental momentum. But no one wants to stick as a beginner for years. To breakthrough writing faster than most people, you need the craftsman approach.
I developed my writing skill by tackling challenging projects and writing with the craftsman mindset. Even though English isn’t my first language.
The first thing I ever wrote was a + 137,000 words novel with a complicated plot. I started with 0% writing skills, and I ended up at least 60% better. Looking back at the first chapters now, I get sick. But the last chapters are so good they can challenge the best chapters of bestselling novels.
Most professional writers wouldn’t advise any new writer to start with a project as massive. But I can say from my experience that challenging your skills is the best way to develop them. Never be afraid to start a big project — even if you’re the newest writer — or pitch to a major publication. Or write a 500-pages book.
Tackling challenging projects is an essential part of deliberate practice. As Anders Ericsson showed in his co-authored book Peak. I’ll explain the method of deliberate practice later in this post, along with the other steps of developing a craftsman mindset.
Motivation, Please Come
I don’t like it when people say, “find what you love to do, and you will never work a day in your life.” I say this is bogus and complete nonsense.
I found my passion, and I’m still working every day. Sometimes I have no motivation whatsoever. I even begin to resent writing! It becomes more like physical exercise. Every word out feels like one push-up, and editing feels like sit-ups. Things get ugly, but that’s just part of the process.
The passion mindset makes you perceive your passion as easy and shouldn’t feel like work.
The study also found that people with this mindset tend to expect endless motivation from their interests. They expect from their passion enough energy to launch to the moon. On many days it feels that way. But there will be days when you have so little motivation to write or do anything else. What you do in those days can define your success as a writer.
On dark days, push through and do your writing. It will be way less and uglier words than usual, but that doesn’t matter. You write anyway. You write even if you feel like the biggest loser on the planet.
Am I a Writer?
When I first started, I felt like writing wasn’t for me. “English isn’t even my first language. I should quit and focus on engineering.”
Thoughts like this are crippling. The passion mindset only helped in fuelling them. I thought I should be as good as a veteran writer from the get-go because it was my passion. But when I got punched in the mouth, I was left unmotivated. I was disappointed because I felt that pursuing my writing passion should be easy.
In times of lowness like this, crippling thoughts will sneak to the mind and poison it. The effects will start kicking in, and you will feel you won’t ever make it. You will feel like giving up.
Tell yourself you’re a professional and fight these thoughts as if they are cancer. Think like a craftsman and hone your craft. This is the only way to defeat these thoughts for good.
Away of My Words — Writer’s Block
One of the main factors for writer’s block is the fixed passion mindset.
People with this mindset are more likely to quit when they face challenges, as the study showed. Writer’s block is one of those challenges you will experience as a writer. You have to push through when you encounter writing challenges. Such as running out of ideas and writer’s block.
Stay with challenges until you find your way around them.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” — Albert Einstein
Unlike the passion mindset, the craftsman mindset forces you to deal with the challenges you’ll encounter.
The Mindset Every Writer Needs to Master the Craft
Becoming a well-paid writer is pretty hard. Everyone is a writer nowadays. The internet is full of writers, so what makes you stand out?
Your skills are what make you stand out. And the best way to develop your writing skill or any other skill is to tackle it like a craftsman. To do that, ditch your passion mindset and develop a craftsman mindset.
Strive to join the 0.01% of writers and master this craft. Sure, you could make a lot of money being a mediocre writer. But in the long run, to master this craft is best to achieve outstanding success. And the craftsman mindset is what will take you to mastery.
Here are the four steps to building a craftsman mindset:
1. Change your perspective.
Stop perceiving writing as a passion or hoppy. But as a craft that you must become pretty good at it if you wish to survive.
Like how a carpenter or a doctor see their craft. Tell yourself you’re a professional and act accordingly.
2. Challenge your skill.
To become a top writer, always challenge what you could do as a writer.
If I didn’t challenge my writing skill by taking on the massive project of writing a + 435-pages novel, I would still be a beginner writer today.
3. Deliberately practice.
The only way to write your way to riches is to become really-really, really good. To become so good at your craft, you need to deliberately and ferociously practice it.
I follow Ericsson’s method that he detailed in his co-authored book Peak, and here is its summary:
- Work in periods of undistracted focus: Avoid your phone and be alone with your writing.
- Pick a specific goal for every session: How many words? Until when will you be writing? And so on.
- Seek discomfort: Constantly challenge yourself as a writer. Aim to write more words than usual. Try diverse forms of writing: articles, copywriting, fiction, and non-fiction books.
- Get guidance and feedback from experts: Seek advice from editors and other successful writers.
Deliberate practice in any skill is the best way to master it.
4. Write to get paid.
The main thing that shifted my passion mindset to that of a craftsman is when I first pursued writing for a living.
If you want to take this skill seriously, writing for yourself because it is your passion will hold you back. It will keep you in the beginner stage. Start a blog. Write here on Medium, offer writing services for companies, write and sell eBooks.
Start now and focus on one way to make money online as a writer. You can think of expanding later.
Now you know how the passion mindset hinders your success as a writer. It is time for you to ditch it and start building a craftsman mindset.
Here’s a recap of where the passion mindset fails you as a writer:
- A narrow focus, limited knowledge: The fixed passion mindset lets you stay in your bubble. and not explore other areas outside your interest area.
- Beginner approach — starting small: It’s hard to practice like a craftsman with a passion mindset. You won’t take the craft with seriousness, and you won’t improve as fast.
- Motivation, please come: The passion mindset makes you expect endless motivation from your passion. That’s far from true. And a craftsman works even when there is no motivation or inspiration whatsoever.
- Am I a writer? (Yes, you are): This mindset makes you less likely to practice. So you will feel incompetent when comparing your work to other successful writers’ work.
- Away of my words — writer’s block: The passion mindset makes you more likely to quit when you encounter challenges with your craft, such as writer’s block.
The craftsman mindset is the way for mastery. Here’s the recap of how to build it:
- Change your perspective: You’re not just passionate about writing. You do writing. You are a writer.
- Challenge your skill: You won’t get better at writing if you stay within your comfort writing zone. Get wild with writing, and write your way to mastery.
- Deliberate practice: The only way to get pretty good is to constantly and deliberately practice your craft. To do that, practice in periods of undistracted focus. Pick a specific goal for every session. Seek discomfort by challenging your capabilities, and get guidance and feedback from experts.
- Write to get paid: Getting money for your work is what will shift your mindset to that of a professional.
There you have it. This method is how I was able to shift my passion mindset to that of a craftsman. This mindset is what will get you through writing even on the days you feel the lowest. It will force you to learn all the ins and outs of writing.
It will bring you to mastery. It will carry you to success.