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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

10 Ways Humility Reduces Resistance


Why learn anything new if you're already perfect?

Humility does not mean we’re worthless worms who have no right to feel proud of our work; it literally means we are “capable of being educated.” Without humility, we cannot learn.

In his Modesty Manifesto, David Brooks asks us to embrace the virtue of modesty to restore balance. He’s not suggesting we should never feel pride, he’s highlighting that we have swung the pendulum so far that:

  • 19% of Americans think they’re in the top 1% of earners (a mathematical impossibility)
  • 94% of college professors think their teaching skills are above average (another mathematical impossibility)
  • and not surprisingly, Americans rate ourselves as having much higher math skills than we actually have.

According to Brooks, one of the problems with thinking so much of ourselves is that we’ve become polarized. We are unwilling to tolerate, let alone, benefit from opposing viewpoints. Writers cannot afford to close our minds this way.

But when we humbly recognize that we don’t know everything there is to know:

  1. We’re willing to seek feedback from people with different perspectives, which gives us a broader, more comprehensive view of our writing.
  2. We’re willing to really listen to and apply the feedback we get to improve our writing – not just filter it to hear only praise and adoration.
  3. We’re willing to research. We know that we can learn something from everyone and everything. This gives us a constant supply of the new ideas and images we need to create new connections.
  4. We recognize the need ongoing professional development. We’re willing to keep learning, taking classes, reading books/mags/blogs about writing and about the topics we write about or might want to write about. We don’t let ourselves become intellectually lazy or delude ourselves that we’re “above” the need to grow.
  5. We’re empathetic. We learn how to walk around in someone else’s shoes and see the world through someone else’s paradigm. Readers are engaged with the characters, stories and ideas we write about because they aren’t all about “me, me, me.”
  6. We challenge ourselves to entertain multiple, even contradictory possibilities. We do not rely solely on our own opinion or the opinions of others who think the way we do.
  7. We can step out of our own assumptions and world view and have a shot at recognizing the intricacies and nuances of a complex truth.
  8. Because we collaborate, we reap the bonus of synergy.
  9. We remain civil and exercise our mental, emotional and social intelligences to keep them from atrophying.
  10. We recognize what vast, diverse, amazing, beautiful, complex world we live in. We are never bored or lonely.

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3 Comments on “10 Ways Humility Reduces Resistance”

  1. Liz Ward July 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    It’s interesting–could I be humility on steroids? If someone compliments my writing, I dismiss them because I KNOW I’m merely an adequate writer with only a hope of being better–it doesn’t matter that I’ve been trained and have made writing a part of a 30-year career. Despite my lack of confidence, I continue to write marcom material and have begun blogging to keep in practice, but I am convinced that others can do it much better. There must be a healthy balance between conceit and denigrating one’s own work. What does that look like?

    Like

    • rosannebane July 21, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      Thanks for your honesty and the intriguing questions, Liz. You’ve inspired my next couple of posts where I’ll attempt to answer your questions.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Balance Pride and Humility to Reduce Writing Resistance « The Bane of Your Resistance - July 28, 2011

    […] response to previous posts on humility, Liz Ward asked, “Could I be humility on steroids? If someone compliments my writing, I dismiss […]

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