Use Conformity to Your Writing Advantage

Are you stuck on the fence?

Maybe you know you want to write. And you’re pretty sure you’d be good at it. But man, is it hard to just GO for it.

Don’t feel guilty for another second. Instead, let’s examine your paradigm.

See, too many of us feel fault when we hesitate over something — particularly something as potentially rewarding as following your passion to write for a living.

But a large chunk of your fear isn’t your fault at all. It’s the result of your paradigm. Your worldview.

You can define it as “the attitudes and beliefs imposed on you thanks to an ever-present ‘human pressure’ to conform.” What that really boils down to is this: we all face peer pressure, family pressure, and societal pressure.

In some cases, we don’t even know we’re being pressured! It just becomes second nature to conform. It’s a phenomenon that has actually been proven through a series of experiments by a fellow named Solomon Asch.

What You See Isn’t Always Your Reality

Solomon Asch is famous for the “Asch Conformity Experiments” — a series of lab studies published in the 1950s that showed human tendency to conform.

Asch asked a group of college students to take a simple “vision test.” They looked at two cards. One card had three lines of noticeably different lengths. The other card had just one line. Students were asked which of the three lines (A, B, or C) matched up with the single line.

Anybody looking at the two cards could see that the answer was obvious. But Asch did something else. He included confederates in the experiment — people who were in on what he was really doing.

So in a group of seven participants, six of them were in cahoots with Asch.

Now, when the experiment took place, all seven participants were seated at the same table. They were asked the line length question twice. Everybody answered correctly, and something of a “group unity” feeling developed.

But the third time around, the confederates all gave the same wrong answer — on purpose. When it came time for the real participant to answer, he would choose the wrong answer. This happened at least 75 percent of the time.

Asch concluded the desire to conform has a surprising effect on the choices we make.

The Upside to Social Pressure

If you want to make a living as a writer, you have to recognize it’s easy to feel hesitation in pursuing the writer’s life when you’re the only person you know who wants to do it.

If your home circle — your family and friends — consists of people who hold down regular jobs and work for pay and not passion, then yes, it’s going to be a challenge to break free from that.

This doesn’t mean people who have regular jobs won’t support you. They might play a crucial role in shoring up your confidence so you make the leap and pursue life as a freelancer.

But it’s also important to explain to them why you’re doing it — especially if they’ve never before known someone who went a different route.

Your job is simply to resist the social pressure to conform. This means you have to go against the grain.

But good news — that’s the only time you have to overcome conformity pressure. Once you’ve made the leap, surround yourself with others who share your goal to make a living as a writer. Let them be your source of social pressure but in a flipped way: their similar interests and actions will compel you to stay on the road less traveled and push forward with your writing dream.

It’s a Choice … Within Reach

I think the greatest barrier to a paradigm shift is paradigm paralysis. That’s where someone refuses to see beyond what everybody else thinks.

But if you can get past what others think, make it a point to surround yourself with people who follow a paradigm that complements your writing goals. Once you do that, it’s easy to get off that fence you were stuck on and cross over.

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Published: May 31, 2012

2 Responses to “Use Conformity to Your Writing Advantage”

  1. My paradigm shift has to be that I need to focus on my goal of the writer's life. While I do write daily in my PR job, I want to break free and writer where and when I want to write. In studying the AWAI materials I absorb the information but the fear of "making the leap" to freelance is sometimes stifling. I'm looking forward to Bootcamp to surround myself with people "who follow a paradigm that compliments my writing goals."

    Shawn Maus

  2. Thanks for writing this great article. It really hit home for a lot of readers.

    Social conformity leads to a phenomenon called "groupthink."

    In other words: when everybody thinks alike, nobody thinks much at all.

    Conformity does not allow you to spread your wings and fly like bird in the vast, open sky.

    When you copy what others are doing, you lose your sense of individuality, that is, what makes you unique; what makes you stand out from the crowd.

    Instead,learn to listen to your true self.

    Archan Mehta

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