Imagine that you are in year twelve, and the Education Board decides to introduce entrance test to Medicine School. You are to be tested on four subjects in a single three hours test. You are to recap two years’ worth of Zoology, Botany, Physics, and Chemistry in a day.
‘It-can’t-be-done,’ you would think. Wouldn’t you?
That is what I thought too.
So strong was my conviction that I thought none of my friends would be able to do it either. I was certain we were all going to fail. And no one will get a seat in Medicine.
Guess what happened?
All of my friends got through, except me.
It was not that I wasn’t bright; I was one of the top students in the class, having topped the district in years nine and ten.
I had the capability. What I didn’t have was the right mindset.
What is the mindset?
Mindset is the mental attitude that determines how we interpret and respond to situations.
It plays a critical role in how well we do in life. Although the word “mindset” is considered relatively new, having first been used in the 1930s, its evidence is as old as human history itself.
From the cave days, humans had a curiosity mindset. We want to learn about everything, and we want to figure out how things work.
Soon humans developed a problem-solving mindset. That is the reason we have advanced from living in the caves to living in air-conditioned houses. We have cars to move around and planes to fly.
Quiet recently, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck discovered that humans have a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. When faced with a challenging problem, the fixed mindset people think is impossible to solve and give up before starting. While the growth mindset, people view it as a challenge and tackle it as a learning opportunity.
Then there is the “dabbler’s” mindset.
What is a “dabbler’s” mindset?
People with “dabbler’s‘ mindset will dip their toes in the water but have no intention of jumping in and swimming to the other end.
I couldn’t get through the entrance exam because I didn’t approach it with the mindset of a person who is going to succeed. Instead, I approached it with the “dabbler’s” mindset.
The“dabbler’s“ mindset is what most of the newbie writers have as well. They want to start writing their book and see how they go. They have no plan, no preparation, and no deadline in mind.
What is the author’s mindset?
For an author, every book is a project. He prepares an elaborate plan to finish the book. Just like a project manager, he uses spreadsheets to monitor the progress of his book.
He knows he has only a certain amount of time to finish it.
He knows that if he needs certain information to include in the book, he will have to research it and find it in that finite time.
If he lacks any skills to write his book (whether it is fight scenes between martial arts fighters or trading in bitcoins), he doesn’t put his hands up in the air and say “too hard” and give up. He learns everything there is to learn about it and gets good at it to come across as a novice when he uses it in his book.
Can we develop an author’s mindset?
“Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing.” — Donal Barthelme.
The not-knowing is crucial to art that permits art to be made. But that doesn’t mean your approach to writing should be of not-knowing too. You got to known where you are going, how you will get there, and what steps you will follow to write a book.
There are three distinct attributes that you need to develop if you want to stop the “dabbler’s” approach and write like an author:
1. Begin with an end in mind
2. Map the route
3. Build a system
1. Begin with an end in mind
Nothing is more important for an author’s mindset than Stephen Covey’s Habit # 2 — Begin With An End In Mind.
When you start a book (or even an article or a short story), think where you want to take it. By that, I don’t mean how it will end but what you want to do with it. Who will be the readers? How long will it take you to write it? How many revise? How will you edit it? Will you do it yourself, or will you hire the services of a professional editor? Will, you self-publish it or go the traditional publishing way?
I know many writers who are stuck in the first draft of their book because they haven’t planned what will happen when they finish. That is why they will never finish their book. It becomes their default position.
Writing a book is not just a wishful thinking; rather it is astute planning to ensure that you accomplish what you started.
That takes us to the next attribute.
2. Map the route
Let’s say you landed in New York and hired a car. Would you hop in the car and start driving, or will you turn on the GPS, enter the hotel address and let it map the route. Even if your hotel is not far from the airport, you still know you will be driving around in circles and waste too much time.
You need to map the route to take your book to the finish line and then get it published. Each one will have its own milestones, its own checkpoints, and its own deadlines. Then you will find the same with your next book.
Successful authors don’t just think about one book. They think way beyond the book they are writing. They write a series. Several series. To be able to do that, you are going to need a system.
3. Build a system
Systems get things done efficiently and effortlessly.
The beauty of a system is that it takes you from conscious mode to autopilot mode where you don’t have to think. You brush your teeth each morning on autopilot mode. What if you write a book like that. Your system can help you do exactly that.
Writing 80,000 words book in a year is hard. But writing 800 words a day is easy. An average person can do it in 40 minutes. Your system will ensure that you write those 800 words every single day without fail. If you do that, write the book in 100 days, leaving you 265 days to do revisions and publication. That is efficiency. You are only writing just 40 minutes a day. That is effortlessness.
Is there any guarantee that you will succeed?
There are no guarantees in life. Yet, the right mindset wins half the battle; preparation wins the other.
The right mindset will ensure that you prepare for the whole journey. You will not only carve the whole path, but you will have a way to get there too — your system. And you will form habits for writing future books as a mindset is nothing more than the habits of the mind formed by previous experience.
Whatever you do, don’t develop the “dabbler’s” mindset. The one I developed when I failed to secure a seat in Medicine. I told myself that I didn’t want to become a doctor anyway. I thought there were better careers than spending your life among the sick people.
But the truth was my “dabbler’s” mindset let me down. It attached a stigma of “failure” to my name, which took me decades to overcome.
You don’t want that to happen to you. Do you?