There’s no shortcut to becoming a confident writer. Growing your writing career involves lots of groundwork, experience, patience, and practice. Securing freelance work requires a combination of establishing a strong digital presence, networking, making the most of your existing contacts, forging new contacts, referrals, timing, and being excellent at what you do.
Something else, though, that’s a vital part of thriving as a writer is your mindset.
Generally speaking, a mindset is an established set of attitudes. It’s a frame of mind, a way of thinking. Your mindset is the group of beliefs you bring to your writing career.
When you’re starting out as a health writer, it’s common to feel a little unsure of yourself. But, developing the right mindset isn’t just about being positive, acting confidently, and getting on with the job.
While confidence and perseverance are essential, there are a few other mindset attributes that – I believe – will help you tremendously in your writing life.
Believe in yourself from day one. For me, the concept of self-belief goes beyond confidence – I feel it’s about developing complete and utter trust in your abilities.
Tell yourself every day that you can do it – that you, just like any other new or experienced writer out there, are entirely capable of finding a great job, doing excellent work, and running your freelance business effectively.
Now, trusting yourself doesn’t mean faking it ‘til you make it or bluffing your way through a project.
It’s true that the concept of self-belief is about believing you have the skills (as opposed to actually having the skills), but if you’ve never written an article and know nothing about health, then no amount of self-belief will make you a great health writer. Of course, you need the appropriate skills. If you don’t have any experience, have faith that you can and will develop the skills – then put in the hard work to make it happen.
Trusting yourself is also about accepting yourself. You stand by – and own – your mistakes and flaws as well as your achievements and strengths. You trust that you have what it takes to handle any situation that comes your way.
When you believe in yourself, and completely trust your abilities, you can achieve a great deal.
Start trusting yourself: Do you completely trust your abilities right now? If not, why not? What’s one thing you can do, right now, to trust yourself more?
I believe the single most important quality, or mindset attribute, that you need to thrive (and not just survive) as a writer is resilience.
Resilience is your capacity to recover from challenges, to push on in the face of adversity. Resilience is knowing you can and will overcome obstacles.
Professional writing is a tough gig, and you’ll face plenty of trials in the months and years to come. How well you cope with and respond to these challenges will set the scene for the course of your career.
When you accept that only you have the power to control how a person or situation makes you feel, you can move mountains.
Resilience is about taking ownership of your feelings as well as your career. It’s about moving on, not dwelling, and developing coping strategies and backup plans when things don’t go the way you’d hoped.
Resilience doesn’t come naturally to everyone. We all have different personalities. And resilience is not about not caring.
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get a little upset if a client or colleague was critical of your work, someone took something you said the wrong way, or you lost out on a pitch.
Resilience is about being able to deal with crappy situations, learn from them, and move on – armed with the benefit of hindsight.
Start building resilience: What’s the worst thing that can happen in the worst-case scenario? How would you deal with it?
In my health writing courses, I talk a lot about understanding the mindset of your ideal readers so you can communicate with them effectively. This principle also applies to your freelance and work relationships – especially when there is miscommunication.
If your clients or colleagues are annoyed or irritated about something, consider the situation from their point of view. Acknowledge their feelings and the reasons for their frustrations – but don’t dwell on the reasons. Use your resilience to move on and do what is needed to square the situation.
Chances are there’s a rational explanation which has little to do with you as a person and more to do with their needs and experiences.
It’s not fair to call them a pain and place all the blame on them. It might make you feel better doing so, but if you can put yourself in their shoes (no matter how infuriating that might be) and listen to their concerns, you’ll come away from the situation with a good outcome and hopefully no hostility.
Miscommunication is not always the other person’s fault – and sometimes seeking validation from others that you aren’t the one at fault isn’t always the best course of action. Because you will, infrequently, make mistakes – just as I’ve made mistakes, and all of the other writers reading this piece have made mistakes, too.
When you listen first, you take complete responsibility and accountability for your actions.
Get comfortable with giving
It’s often stated by bloggers in the entrepreneurial world that you must be willing to help others without necessarily getting something in return. Advice, referrals, quotes – don’t aim to leave an encounter or interaction feeling like unless you got something out of it, the effort wasn’t worth it. Why? Giving without seeking to get fosters genuine communication and interaction.
If you’re always concerned about what’s in it for you, people will pick up on this vibe.
To get comfortable with giving, you have to give for the right reasons – one of which isn’t people pleasing. When you’re trying to people-please, says coach Dan Munro, you’re trying to get liked and approval. Instead, giving is about making sure others get what they want. On the other hand, you can only give so much, and you can’t be expected to prioritise everyone and everything.
There’s a happy medium when it comes to giving and getting. Plus, helping others and volunteering gives you a warm fuzzy feeling which will make you more content in general. Speaking of happiness…
Spend time on activities that bring out the best in you
This mindset attribute is not as much about productivity and efficiency as it is about you choosing where you best spend your energy.
To thrive as a writer, you need to enjoy your work and the people you surround yourself with – at least to an extent. If you dislike your work most of the time, or if you’re not as happy or as motivated as you feel you could be, something needs to change. Look at your activities. What are you doing that is making you unhappy? What are you not doing that is making you unhappy?
At the beginning of the year, I made two lifestyle changes. 1 – drastically reduce time on social media, and 2 – quit drinking. These changes have transformed my working (and home) life for the better. I’m not saying you need to do these specific things, but there may be changes you can make. And, you know what? It won’t be easy – change never is. But, if you feel like there’s a better version of yourself out there, then perhaps it’s time to do some soul searching.
To bring out your best, you might choose to specialise in a certain type of work you know you’re good at because it makes you feel confident. You might choose to stop spending time with things and people who don’t bring out the best in you. You might move employers for ethical or emotional reasons.
If you want to be the best version of yourself (and who doesn’t?), don’t be afraid to look at life outside of work and focus on doing more of the activities that make you happy.
How’s your mindset?
Do you already have most of these mindset attributes? Are you working on, or striving for, other mindset attributes?
Whatever mindset attributes you choose to adopt – whether from my list or somewhere else – changing your way of thinking isn’t easy. We all have ups and downs, plus personal circumstances outside of work that influence the way we run our businesses and careers. But, it is possible to change your attitude and your way of thinking. In my experience, it’s a slow process – and, it’s not linear. There will be bumps in the road – yet every journey begins with a single step (my favourite musing).
If you’re happy – great – keep doing what you’re doing! But, if you feel there’s room for improvement, then consider how your mindset could be the key to thriving, not merely surviving, in your writing career.
What mindset attributes help you thrive as a writer?