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.
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.