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“The Power of Yet” vs. “The Tyranny of Now”

Valley of Fire by Flickr's Allan [1]
Valley of Fire by Flickr’s Allan

I recently watched a TED talk with Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, about educators and students and something she calls ‘the power of yet.’ Carol began her talk by referencing a school in Chicago whose teachers chose to give a grade of ‘not yet’ instead of the dreaded ‘F’ when students hadn’t passed a subject.

What a revelation, to think like that — not in terms of failure, but rather instead of future potential.

You’re not yet there. But you will be, you can be; just keep going.

Carol spoke, too, of a time when she purposefully gave a group of middle-school students a problem they weren’t yet ready for, wanting to gauge their response. Would they feel helpless or cope somehow? Well, some of the kids did feel hopeless, helpless, in the face of a too-hard challenge, while others recognized their personal ‘yet’; no, they couldn’t yet rise to the test, but they knew they might be able to meet it later. After they’d grown, learned, lived a little more life.

These kids, the yet-kids, had what Carol termed a ‘growth mindset’ as opposed to a fixed one.

What about those students with a ‘fixed mindset’? As you might guess, they were devastated at their own perceived limits. They were not smart enough, they thought. Not talented. Not measuring up. Not capable of success. In Carol’s words, “Instead of luxuriating in the power of yet, they were gripped in the tyranny of now.”

The tyranny of now. Sit with that idea a moment. If that doesn’t feel like a box, I don’t know what does.

Perseverance is one of my favorite words. To me, it’s one piece of the formula every writer must embrace in order to succeed. (I feel so strongly about that, that ‘Perseverance’ makes up one of the seven sections in our upcoming Author in Progress book.)

If you are in a moment with your work in progress that feels like a stuck moment, remember you are never truly stuck. Nothing about the writer’s life is static. Not when every day might offer a new word, sentence, page, scene, chapter, or bold idea. Not when every day offers an opportunity for the growth mindset to kick in.

This work of mine, this wonderful, tortuous work. It might not be completed yet, but we are not yet at The End. 

No, we are not.

Write on.

(p.s. Carol’s fantastic TED talk is just below. You can also learn more about her ideas through her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success [2].)

Writers, how often do you grapple with ‘the tyranny of now’? How often do you encourage yourself on with ‘the power of yet’? What else do you tell yourself when it seems you can’t face the page one more day?

About Therese Walsh [3]

Therese Walsh co-founded WU in 2006 and is the site's editorial director. She was the architect and 1st editor of WU's only book, Author in Progress [4], and orchestrates the WU UnConference. [5] Her second novel, The Moon Sisters [6], was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal and Book Riot; and her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy [7] was a Target Breakout Book. Sign up for her newsletter [8] to be among the first to learn about her new projects (or follow her on BookBub [9]). Learn more on her website [10].

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