Tag: learning

What You Believe You Know – Talking Mindset

What You Believe You Know – Talking Mindset

Stuff. Lots of stuff.

What do you know about yourself? What do you believe? What are you good at? What things leave you bewildered? What’s your mindset?

We’ve all got those preconceptions – I can do this, but not this. I’m good at this, but not this.

But what if it’s not that clear cut? What if what we believe is less fact and more habit?

What if we can change it?

I read a very interesting article the other day. Well, interesting if you’re into that sort of thing. You know – the oddities of human behaviour and all that fun stuff. It was about mindset, and specifically fixed versus growth mindset. Odds are, you’ve heard those terms before. Maybe you know all about them, which is all good, and you can now go and read about cats and time machines, because you’ll learn nothing more from this blog post (although send me the link to the cats and time machines. That sounds good).

I knew a lot less about these things than I thought. Fixed mindset = not open to new ideas, growth mindset = open to new ideas, right?

Yes and no.

And solve for purple playpuses (platupi?). Or something.

Yes, that’s part of it. But not in the clear-cut way I thought. See, I like learning stuff. I’m getting increasingly less concerned about feeling (or appearing) silly as I get older, so that makes learning stuff ever-easier. I believe that if we set our minds to things, and work hard, we can achieve most things we set out to achieve. So, growth mindset, right?

Eh. Not exactly. I’m also very, very good at telling myself all the things I can’t do. Such as:

  • I’m not good in social situations.
  • I can’t draw.
  • I’m clumsy and uncoordinated.
  • I’m not good at maths.

You know, all the stuff I just have no talent for, right? And here’s some other things I tell myself, about what I can do:

  • Writing’s just one of those things I can do, like some people can draw.
  • I’m lucky because I find it easy to work out every day.
  • Watersports are just natural for me.
  • It’s in my nature to be self-disciplined, so working from home’s fine for me.
Yes, that is me, in my happy place. I recognise the fins.

Okay, so. Things I can’t do, and things I can. Facts, right? Just being honest about my abilities, right? I mean, obviously I have to consider these points, because there’s no sense trying to achieve things in areas I’m no good at, right?

Again, eh.

Turns out I actually have a pretty fixed mindset about myself. And I doubt I’m the only one. I think a lot of us look at our abilities – and the abilities of others – and just think, wow, she’s good at that! Or, hmm, I don’t think that’s really his thing.

This is something I’ve become more aware of since I started sketching. One of the facts I absolutely knew about myself was that I couldn’t draw. I was useless at art – I mean, jeez, I failed it at school! Who can actually fail art? (We’re not talking advanced here, either – I was about 15) But due to a dearth of tea-drinking, acrophobic dragon pictures, I decided I’d try drawing anyway.

Turns out, I’m no Chris Riddell, but I can draw. With some practise. And youtube tutorials. And laboriously copying other people’s pictures to start me off. And a lot of trial and error. And when I put my pictures online, suddenly people were laughing at me and saying, of course you can draw! Don’t be silly – you’re natural at it! And quite a few people were telling me that they wished that they could draw.

Early attempts – a very toothy dragon who has seen something he can never, ever forget, no matter how he tries.

But I’m not natural at it.  And a couple of weeks earlier, I couldn’t draw. But the wanting to grew big enough that it outweighed the knowing, so I tried anyway. I shifted my mindset, and decided that I could learn, and I did. It’s never going to be super-easy for me, and I doubt it’ll ever be anything more than a bit of fun, but that’s okay. Because it means more to me than just, oh, I can illustrate my short stories, now. It means I can do things I was quite sure I couldn’t.

There’s two sides to this – one is the negative beliefs, that stop us doing so many things. Drawing, for me. Maths and science is my other bugbear – which are also subjects I did pretty badly at in school (except biology. Biology was cool). So I’m trying to rephrase things. If I can learn to draw, what’s to stop me learning to maths? (Yes, I just used maths as a verb. I am a writer, and I do what I want. On this blog, anyway.)

Okay, so this is cool and exciting! I can take all these beliefs about what I can’t do, and turn them into possibilities. I’m not good at maths now, but if I study it and put the work in, I can learn it. I mean, odds are I won’t, because maths, but still. I could. Less exciting is the possibility that with a bit of work I could become, if not comfortable, at least adept in social situations, thus having no excuse to hide in the kitchen looking busy at every party I go to. Somehow even maths feels easier than that.

So what about the things that I can do? Am I to believe that I was not, actually, born swimming in words and sea water? Surely not! Surely I didn’t actually just put a lot of time in and learn those things, just like everyone else?

Not talent. I just became obsessed with arm balances, because they’re FUN.

Sadly, yes. And I can even point at one of them – working out every day – and remember that I was desperately bad at PE at school, and only really took up working out when my very active lifestyle became a not-very-active-at-all one. And that the whole moving every day thing only became a habit when yoga was my way of keeping my head on straight. So I learned to make it part of life, and now I get itchy if I miss more than a day.

*Sigh*. So I’m very unspecial. I’ve worked for all my ‘natural talents’, and if I worked on my non-talents I might be able to turn them into talents too. Boo?

Not really. How exciting that is! How dragons and popcorn fun to imagine that we can try pretty much anything, and if we put the time and effort in, we can master it! How – how freeing. How astonishing to realise we are a sum of our experiences, and by opening ourselves to something new, we can become something new. We can learn. We can change our preconceptions of ourselves. We can grow. We can take all those things that we (and other people) have been saying we can’t do, and do them. You know, as long as they’re legal and physically possible and no one’s going to lose an eye.

And now I have to go have a little sit-down, because all that potential is making my head swim.

Although I’m still not sure about the social skills. But, y’know – I could.

My favouritest Beaufort picture so far, because this IS Beaufort.

How about you, lovely people? What are some beliefs about yourself you’ve challenged? What beliefs would you like to challenge?

7 Things About Snowboarding, Writing, & Life

7 Things About Snowboarding, Writing, & Life

I finally got my first snowboarding day of the season in yesterday – a friend and I headed up to Auron, which is about 2hrs drive from here. The snow was gorgeous, and, being a Monday, it was lovely and quiet. Which was good, as the first day of the season tends to be… patchy for me. My friend, being French, elegant, and a skier, spent most of the day laughing at me and asking when I was going to learn to ski.

Which I’m considering, but, honestly, controlling one board is about the limit of my coordination. Two skis and two poles? I have doubts.

But something occurred to me when I fell getting off the lift (happens a lot), and my friend and the lift operator were both teasing me about it.

I didn’t care.

I wasn’t embarrassed.

I hadn’t hurt myself, so what did it matter? I laughed as much as they did.

And I’m not as relaxed about most things in my life.

So, because I needed a blog post, you shall now be subject to the philosophy of writing and life, as taught by snowboarding. (Lesson – never think anything is not relatable to writing if there’s a writer in the vicinity.)


7 Things Snowboarding Taught Me About Life (& Writing)

1. You will fall. Probably frequently. Sometimes it hurts (sometimes even a lot), sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s frustrating. It’s okay. Everyone else falls, too. Even the ones that go super-fast and have the awesome expensive boards. Often they fall much harder than you just did. Check for broken bits, laugh, get up and keep going.

2. Learn how to fall. Since you’re going to fall anyway, learn how to do it so it doesn’t hurt too much. Learn to lean into the motion of your board (or your writing, or life), so you’ve got a better chance of catching yourself and not landing on your bum in an icy patch and really feeling it. If you want protection, wear it. It’s okay to have a buffer against the bumps.

3. Relax. You’ll fall, you’ll get up, you’ll keep going. So will everyone else. Maybe you feel like you look silly (windmilling your arms trying to stay upright, perhaps, or hopping up and down trying to get yourself moving, or sliding head-first on your back down a slope because you got a little cocky). Don’t worry about it. Everyone looks a bit silly at some stage. And the more you relax, the less that fall’s going to hurt.

4. Know how to stop, and don’t be afraid to do it. Unexpected things are always jumping out at you, whatever form they take – battalions of very small children snaking across the slope in such long lines you can’t get past them, or appearing off snowbanks and dropping onto the piste, or flying past you so fast you need to take a break to re-evaluate if you’re even young enough to be out here (small children on ski slopes scare me. They’re so quick. And small). Or, you know, colds, or unplanned visitors, or needing to know where you’re actually going, or the lure of hot chocolate. Or even just a really nice view that requires appreciating. There’s nothing wrong with stopping. Make sure you’ve got the hang of it. It’s important.

5. Sometimes it hurts. I don’t mean the falls, although sometimes they do. I mean the seam in your sock rubbing on your little toe, or your calves aching from too much toe edge coming down a skinny trail, or your sinuses playing up, or (nasty new discovery this week) mal de montagne. Things hurt, and that’s just part of snowboarding, or writing, or life. And it’s okay to hurt. The thing is to find the good stuff that outweighs it.

6. Make it fun. You can moan about the hurts and curse the falls and whinge about all the people who are better at it than you, or you can look past it. See the bits that matter – after all, what other sport basically invites you to slide down a mountain on a piece of wood, fall over, roll around in the snow, then go drink hot chocolate, all while bundled up like a five-year-old (well, that’s me. My friend always looks very glamorous and put together)? And writing – where else do you get to make up worlds, play with imaginary friends, then go tell people about it? And said people actually want to listen? And as for life – well, it’s just generally pretty ridiculous, I’d say.

7. The more you do it, the better you get. Don’t let those first few horrible days, where it’s more falling than fun, put you off. Don’t let the rejections stop the stories. Don’t let the stuff that made you stumble at twenty still trip you at forty. Every fall, every rejection, every trip, is one you don’t have to do again. Keep going. It’ll get better. You’ll get better. And the better you get, the more fun it is. Keep going.

Although I still have my doubts that I’ll ever completely get the hang of getting off lifts.



What’s your favourite activity for getting out of your head? What have you learned from it? Let me know in the comments!

A bit of an update, too, as I know I haven’t done a short story since December (which feels like a really long time ago). I’m going to be making some changes to the website over the next month or so, and one of those will be that there’ll only be one short story a month, the link to which will go out in the newsletter. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep up to the more regular stories, but I’d rather do less and do them better!

The old short stories will also be coming off the website, and I’ve yet to decide exactly what I’m doing with them, so stay tuned – and sign up for the newsletter to receive this month’s short story in a week or so!

Sign up here!


Dragons, & the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Dragons, & the Stories We Tell Ourselves

It’s short story week, and we’re joining Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons and barbecue aficionado. Jump straight to the story here, or read on for a chat! (And if you’ve not encountered Beaufort before, there’s a Q&A with him here, or you can ask me about his other short stories!)

Dragons don’t swim! That’s a truth.

One thing I have always known, is that I am terrible at drawing. I failed art at school (somewhat like PE (sports), I doubt anyone knew it was possible to fail art until I came along). I have a terrible sense of proportion and no spatial awareness whatsoever. Hence, I spend a lot of time measuring and using spirit levels before drilling holes anywhere, as eyeballing it is not an option for me (and pictures are still usually wonky, because even if I get the holes in the right place, I can’t sit them straight), most of my photos have horizons with more angle than the Tower of Pisa, and cakes are never cut evenly.

And this generally doesn’t bother me. Drawing has never been a passion for me. I love other people’s drawings, and admire anyone who has the talent to create such beautiful things. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do.

But. I have a dragon. And of all my characters, he’s the pushiest and the one I’d most like to see. Plus I can only illustrate his stories with so many cups of tea and slices of cake, especially as the latest one has no tea or cake in it. (Sorry, Beaufort.)

But I can’t draw. This is one of those truths I know about myself.

Like, I can’t dance. I’m no good at maths. I’m terrible at sport. I’m even at worse at small talk.

All these things I know, although, when I think about it, I’m not sure how I know. I dance at home and scare the cat, because I’m not one for going out. I haven’t had to do maths since I was at school. I haven’t played sports since I was at school. And I go into every social occasion so convinced that I can’t talk to people that I’m stressed out before I even begin.

The only one of these truths I’ve tested is the drawing.

Hands up, they’re not brilliant, and I’m not digging for compliments there. I can only draw his little dragon face at one angle, and it’s best you don’t look too closely at his paws. However, he is recognisably a dragon, which was more than I’d hoped for. So maybe I’m not as terrible at drawing as I thought.

Maybe I can still learn these things.

Of course, high levels of motivation will be required before I tackle sport or small talk. And I’ll probably keep the dancing at home, and the maths to my phone. But, y’know. I could try.

Truths. Aren’t they funny things, sometimes?

And, on that note – Beaufort looks at a truth he thought he knew about dragons in this week’s short story. Enjoy!

Beaufort Scales & A Rather Difficult Flying Lesson

PS – the drawings are actually mostly of Gilbert. I’m still working on Beaufort.



Do you have any truths about yourself you’d like to test out? Let me know below!