What I Learned About Writing from a Sports Psychologist

Do you ever want to stop writing because you aren’t “good enough?” Or wonder how to get a character just right? Or even think “I’m not a writer, so why do I bother?” Taking a few tips from a sports psychologist can help.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a conference NCAA meeting to gain wisdom from a speaker, meet some sports leaders from other schools in the conference, and discuss legislation up for vote in the next few months.

Our speaker was a sports psychologist named Joel Fish who works with pro sports teams in Philadelphia and worked with the gold medal winning US women’s soccer team in the 90s as well as the US field hockey team. As expected, we all thought we didn’t have enough time with him to talk about all the things we do mentally that hinder our sports performance, but in the time we had some very useful things came up.

And as I was reviewing my notes to share with the team leaders for the sports at my school, I realized a lot of the stuff can be useful, even necessary, for writers, too. I’ve chosen my three favorite tips.

Believe in yourself.

At one point Fish said that one of his coaches had him yell “I am a champion” into a mirror louder and louder three times, but on the third, most forceful time, he looked away. Why? He didn’t believe he was a champion.

So the question is: do you believe you’re a writer?

You don’t have to believe you’re an amazing writer, or that your work is brilliant, or that you will go down in history alongside Oscar Wilde and JK Rowling. You just have to believe you’re a writer. That is, you write stuff, and you’ll get better at it, and you can be proud of that, even if you never show your work to anyone.

You don’t have to yell “I am a writer” at yourself in a mirror, but reminding yourself every once in a while that writers write can help keep you from wanting to give up.

After all, if you don’t believe you’re a writer, who else will?

Get yourself a mantra.

I’m not asking you to get a pillow, cross your legs, and chant to yourself. Just find a word or phrase to get you jazzed up, focused, or able to write freely. After use, it’ll be automatic, and it’ll help you get your writing done and get passed any mental road blocks.

Some examples could be “no inner editor” or “who cares what people think?” for first drafts.

Others could be “kills your darlings” or “the red pen of death is merciful” for edits.

Whatever it is, it should help you with your writing, either and aspect you have trouble with or just something to put you in a mindset. It should be short and sweet so you can remind yourself of it easily when necessary, but you can also have a word that represents an entire quote if you’d like.

And if you want to sit cross-legged on a pillow and chant it to yourself, go ahead. Just let me know if it helped.

Use the Five “I”s of Communication.

There are a lot of tips and tricks out there for character development, but I like the Five “I”s of Communication as a way to flush out characters in specific scenes. Their moods will change, sometimes page to page, and being able to keep up with that is important.

Every time you don’t know how to write a character in a scene, try having them finish these five sentences. It will give you an idea of their thoughts and motivations so that you can write them effectively.

I see…
I hear…
I feel…
I want…
I will…

For instance, for me right now, I’d say:

I see my cell phone screen, the keyboard, these words, darkness, and streetlights outside the windows.
I hear the air conditioner.
I feel that the air conditioner shouldn’t be on because both me and my hermit crabs are cold enough.
I want to go to sleep and avoid my 8am class.
I will go to my 8am anyway.

So, based on this information, you can imagine how I’d act if someone next door started blasting music or my roommate returned with a bunch of her friends to watch a movie. You’d give me whatever personality you want (direct, passive, vengeful), but by knowing my desires and thoughts, you could create a believable scenario.

If you do this with your characters, you’ll have the advantage of knowing their personality and what they would do in such a situation.

In conclusion (which is how you should NEVER end an essay….).

Sports psychology contributed to how I think about writing by showing me that believing in myself, having a mantra, and using the Five “I”s of Communication can help my writing ability and habits.

And that taught me that writing tips, tricks, and topics (for scenes or entire stories) can come from anywhere…even an athletics conference.

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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Writing


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Pico Iyer: Where is home? | Talk Video |

Pico Iyer: Where is home? | Talk Video |

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Life


The 31 Realest Tumblr Posts About Being A Woman

The 31 Realest Tumblr Posts About Being A Woman.

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Life


She Didn’t Know It (Poem)

She didn’t know it

But when I first saw her

I was drawn to her

By the depth in her eyes

The way she held herself

The way she moved

The kindness I felt

In her soul


She didn’t know it

But when I first saw her

Something hit me

Something created by her smile

Her hair, her nose, her laugh

Created by her voice

Caressing my ears


She didn’t know it

But the second day I knew her

I was in love

There was a place in my heart

Set aside just for her

And it would never leave


She didn’t know it

But the third day I knew her

I knew I had to be with her

I knew I had to stay with her

I knew I would one day propose


And now she knows

That the easiest thing I do

Every single day

Is love her

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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Life, Writing


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Last Night, I Learned to Juggle

I helped my track coach (who’s a professor on campus) with the book he’s finishing up (that will be out sometime this year) and therefore, he owes me home-cooked meals since his money belongs to his kids, not me. Last night was one of the nights I went over to his house for dinner (this time another track girl came) and it was wonderful. So, in light of that, I decided to make a list of all the reason I enjoy dinner with his family.

  1. I’m always learning something new. Whether it’s a new game or some random fact, I always learn something when I’m there. Since I love learning, I love that that’s possible at his house, since at my house, that doesn’t necessarily happen outside my own searching. Plus, I can now juggle three things at once, and I’ve never been able to do that before (although apparently I learned to in about ten minutes). I also learned a card trick, since those are always popular in that house, despite not wanting to know how it’s done, because I like to just pretend magic exists for a minute or two.
  2. The children are awesome. He has two kids and a niece visiting right now. His daughter was gone, but his son and niece were there, and those are two children I really enjoy (although his niece is 15). They’re amusing and smart and pretty calm, which are all things I enjoy in children since I don’t really like children at all. Plus, I’m kinda jealous of his kid’s childhood; the brain games and such as a family would have been fun in my house when I was younger.
  3. The food is delicious. Dining hall food is only good up to a point. Then it just gets old and I start to crave real food that smells yummy and looks tasty and makes my mouth water. Good thing my coach loves to cook, because the food at his house makes me suddenly a lot hungrier than I’ve been in my dining hall.
  4. Chocolate lava cake. This was the dessert for the night, and it was probably the greatest thing I’ve tasted since the shrimp scampi I had at home in January.
  5. Board games. That house is stocked with board games and card games and little fun things to do. It’s probably good I don’t have much of that in my dorm room, though, because I’d just want to play that stuff all the time and not do homework.
  6. German. His wife is German, and his niece is visiting from Germany, so they all speak German and will do it randomly for little things or to explain something to his niece. It’s really cool. I took German for four years in high school and don’t remember much of it, so I’m always amazed when I can catch what they’re saying, and I’ve only been there twice and am pretty sure I can at least understand it a little better, just not actually speak it.
  7. Guitar. I don’t play the guitar…in front of other people, anyway. Sometimes my roommate comes in when I’m practicing, but in general, I don’t play guitar. My coach wants me to prove to him I can, in fact, play something on the guitar. I refuse. So usually there’s at least some arguing about it, and he (or his niece, or this time my track friend on the ukulele) usually plays something, and that’s cool. Before we left last night he said next time I was either playing guitar or reading from my story (meaning Tell No Lies) and neither of those things are happening (especially Tell No Lies), but it’s still really fun to just be around people that like playing music again, since most of my friends in high school were like that. Maybe I’ll play guitar in front of people when I get my own little acoustic, who will be named Dimitri. But probably not.
  8. No homework. There’s no reason for me to be doing homework at his house on a Friday night, and that’s an absolutely fantastic feeling (especially since I have to write a paper in two days and start a major project and read a lot…).

So, those are some reasons I like to go to my coach’s house for dinner once in a while.

Where do you like to go to get away?


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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in College, Life


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