Cultivating a growth mindset through creative writing

Afterthoughts: Becoming by Michelle Obama

To live intentionally requires a first principles approach

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Those that share a growth mindset have a fundamental belief their abilities or skills can be developed through dedication and hard work. The alternative, a fixed mindset, believes that competence is innate, and a function of our genes, unable to be further developed or changed. I have been introduced to these opposing ideals in various contexts, from school and university to the workplace. Oftentimes, the gamut of advice for cultivating the growth mindset runs a deep as some variation of: “reframe your perspective.” There is nothing that I have come across, by way of suggested exercises or activities, that hits out-of-the-park for those wanting to leave a fixed mindset. One exercise that I believes helps, which I have discovered independently, is creative writing.

Creative writing is not beholden to form or function. Whether you are writing poetry or fiction, there are no set structures or tropes to follow, no constraints to speak of. The only limits are the english language and the confines of a piece of paper, or of a digital word processor. Otherwise, a writer is free to write about what they want, in whatever form they deem suitable. A daring examples creative writing is House of Leaves, a seemingly ill-conceived book with the pages formatted oddly and a story that requires your full effort to understand – when you do, you probably wish you hadn’t.

I started my own journey of creative writing and found it refreshing. A lot of the short stories I have written so far involve mundane premises with ludicrous twists. A result of trying to finish everything I started before moving onto the next. The process involves toiling over what a reader might find surprising, grotesque, or intriguing – how I do subvert their expectations? The whole time I am writing, I am question the “what if?” question. This obsession with what-if has crossed over to my day-to-day reality. What if I could learn how to code in a month? What if I could sing like Adele in a year? What if I moved to Mars in 10 years? My world opened up. In fiction, these things could happen, why can’t they happen in the real world?

This constant questioning of the assumptions I find is helping to cultivate growth mindset. My circumstances, my skills, my abilities, my beliefs, I began to consciously see them as pliable. If I have found it useful, I don’t see why it would be any different for anyone else.

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