As I’ve reminded myself here before, anxiety and getting all wound up and caffeinated aren’t always conducive to performing well. Adopting this posture towards one’s work can have detrimental effects, such as causing muscles to tighten and even resulting in injury. So then, what is the alternative for high performance? Taking a cue from sports psychologists, I’m listing the conditions that are advised for optimum athletic performance. I think these apply equally well to getting in the “flow” for writing performance and I’m planning to use them as a guide towards greater productivity in 2009.
*Strong internal motivation - whether we are aware of it or not, there are certain reasons that push each of us forward. Write them down and revisit them if you need to remind yourself why you do what you do.
*Ability to transcend stressful situations – Drive to get it done isn’t enough. When you’re out there on the field, or on the page, you’ve got to push through situations that are distracting or difficult. Practice tuning out the noise and mental chatter to do what you have to do. If you’re inclined to practice meditation on a daily basis, this helps strengthen your mind to tune out what you don’t need to pay attention to in that moment.
*Focus on manageable, familiar tasks – play by play, not the whole game at once. In the writing, this means one paragraph at a time, not the whole section or the whole paper.
* Mental preparation- This has three components: 1. visualization 2. pre-performance routines 3. getting ready for the defining moment.
1. Visualizing: Imagine the paper done and accepted before you start. Picture the title and your name next to it, in the font and font size of your journal of choice, with a glossy reprint lying on your desk.
2. Pre-performance routines: these don’t have to be something elaborate, some people like to light a candle or play their song of choice. You could just start the same way every time you sit down to write so you brain is cued into what you are doing. Since I wrote most of my dissertation to it, there is a Pearl Jam CD that unfailingly helps me to get in the writing groove on difficult days.
3. Getting ready for the defining moment: The defining moment is one that we have all faced. This is that moment when you are beyond exhausted and just sick of working on the same paper, you feel like your brain is filled with molasses, you just.cannot.go.on. with the project. How will you respond when that happens? What you do in that moment defines who you are. Picture yourself confronting that moment, and responding to it appropriately before you get there.
*Accept defeat without losing heart – Get back on the horse and revise and resubmit if things don’t work out as planned. After all, facing challenges does strengthen us, even in writing.