Growth Mind-set


I started this blog a week ago and I already feel paralyzed. There are so many talented writers out there and, though I love to write, I can’t help but twist my hands with jealousy when I see others' elegant sentences slip down my computer screen.

I stumbled across this article in the Atlantic last week, have you seen it? It’s called “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators.” It details a phenomenon that I am all too familiar with: the terror of being unmasked as a fraud. The sinking feeling that, maybe I’m not good with words after all. The Eeyore inside, flicking his tail, “Oh well. I guess I won’t even try.”

The article details research on failure and makes a distinction between people who have a fixed mind-set, that is, belief that success is dependent on talent (the Eeyores), versus the people who have a growth mind-set, the ones who are enthralled by the things they find difficult and, instead of worrying about failure, plunge in because they know they will learn something in the process (those Little Engines that Could).

The fact that there are people out there who naturally are enthralled by difficulty kills me. I, on the other hand, might mutter, “I think I can” one or two times before giving up to make myself a snack.

This morning I was grumbly and short with my daughter. I had stayed up way too late after discovering the blog-hater website, Get Off My Internets. As I read the scathing reviews of some of my regular blog reads, I shrunk downward on the couch. These comments were so harsh, so cruel. It was enough to make any fledgling blogger want to burrow back into the nest where there is no risk of attack by anonymous vultures.

As I got ready for my job, I grumped around while preparing appropriate worksheets and materials for the three tutoring sessions I had this afternoon. I am not a teacher, just another liberal arts educated adult who wants to help struggling kids on the margins (for which I am compensated generously). And I often feel at a total loss for helping my students catch up two and three grade levels in math and reading. Teaching, it turns out, is really hard. And sometimes, I’m not good at it.  But the thing about a job is that you have to go, even if you’re feeling like an absolute fraud while driving to it. Today, just showing up with my hastily planned lessons was enough to help a hard-to-teach 4th grade boy with equivalent fractions. I'll take it.

Every piece on this ol’ blog will not be spellbinding prose, profound, or even remotely good. Strangers will read it and judge my abilities. Even typing that sentence spins me into web of fear and loathing. But I know that, if I never hit “publish," if I never try, I will never grow into a mature writer. And this blog is good accountability (and motivation) to adopt a growth mind-set.

For you readers, thank you. I am honored that you are here, reading my words. And I pledge to show up, to throw off my inner Eeyore as best I can. I can’t promise it will be stellar writing, but I can promise to be honest. At least I’ll keep telling myself, “I think I can.”

Mommy blogs as gateway drugs

When I first became a mother, I found myself doing what lots of other new moms do when handed a live baby: incessantly googling newborn won't sleep normal, 10 minute naps normal, crying all the time normal. My desperate late-night searches sent me into weird message boards on BabyCenter and outdated Yahoo groups from 2004. I even frequented a hippie message board from the Berkeley Parents Network. But it wasn't long before I found myself clicking into a world I never knew existed: mommyblogland. Mommyblogland is a snaking network filled with both snarky and saccharine tales of parenthood. There are let-me-tell-you-how-it-really-is diatribes alongside photo montages of dimpled baby legs and toddlers playing with wooden toys. There are real life accounts of how people survive colic. How-tos for washing your cloth diapers. Comic relief. Really, there is something for everyone.

Before mommyblogland, I didn't know blogs were - you know - still a thing. I thought blogs were for updating your friends and family on your semester abroad, an alternative to the mass email of yore. Most of my good friends didn't deign to social media. It was almost a contest amongst us to show how infrequently we could update our profile pictures on Facebook because, you know, Facebook is lame. I had even tried quitting it two different times. 

Though I burned with a secret shame, I loved mommyblogland. I would lurk while stuck under a newborn for hours and - hey - those mommybloggers understood. I was comforted by the vulnerability of others: honest words on postpartum weepies, co-sleeping and breastfeeding travails. It made me feel less isolated as a new stay-at-home mom, which is no small thing.

And mommyblogland led to another blog network: the Jesus storytellers and honest-to-God writers. The ones re-imagining the faiths of their adolescence, dismantling cliches and letting fresh air inside musty old rooms. There is only so much breathing of each others' air that will suffice in the Christian faith, and these ladies yanked up the windowsills for me when I needed it.

So, here I am, 30 years old today. I am starting a blog because I love to write and because I'd rather join the conversation than watch from the sidelines. Thank you mommyblogland for being my gateway drug to the writing and blogging life.

I still love you and I don't care who knows it.