Growing as an Editor

People with a growth-oriented mindset are happier and more successful than people with a fixed mindset (see Carol S. Dweck’s Mindset, among others).

Growth versus Fixed Mindset

People with a growth mindset are those who think they can learn and grow through hard work, persistence, and thoughtful feedback. A fixed mindset assumes that people are born with certain talents and aptitudes—they either have them or they don’t and there isn’t much one can do about it either way.

A fixed mindset stifles learning and keeps people from persisting: “I guess I’ll never be any good at this so I may as well give up.” When a setback comes, a person with a fixed mindset often considers that a message from the universe: “I’m not meant for this.”

But success in editing, especially freelance editing, requires a lot of hard work and persistence. That can’t happen if you give up too soon.

You may think you have a growth-oriented mindset but sometimes people shift into fixed mindset thinking when they set goals. “I want to be the best developmental editor there is!” may seem like a suitable goal, but it assumes that there’s an endpoint—a fixed place beyond which you won’t grow.

For that reason, I encourage editors to adopt a “get better all the time” goal. Even though I’ve been editing for more than twenty years, I’m constantly learning new things—not just new tools that may not have existed before but new ideas about how to edit effectively, deeper understanding of how story works, and greater knowledge of the advantages and drawbacks of the framework I bring to the editorial process. One of the things I love about development is that it supports this kind of learning.

But that approach also keeps me humble: I don’t know everything, and I have more to learn. This helps me keep an open mind and makes me pull back when I start to sense that I’m being too dogmatic about some principle or concept.

If you’ve ever struggled with imposter syndrome or lack of confidence, a growth-oriented mindset can help. “I’m getting better all the time” is much more believable and provable than “I’m the world’s best!” Plus, “I’m going to keep trying” is more productive than “I guess this is as good as I’m going to get and I’m disappointed with these results.”

Remember, “I’m getting better all the time” beats “I’m going to be the best.”