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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.

Put Writing at the Center

In The Social Animal (which I highly recommend), David Brooks writes about the mindset a high school tennis player adopted when she stepped onto the court:

“Erica would not allow herself to have a conception of her opponent. She would not allow herself to think about line calls. Her performance would be judged by how the ball left her racquet, and nothing else was in her control. Her own personality was not at the center. Her talent wasn’t at the center. Her ego and self-worth were not at the center. The task was at the center.

“By putting the task at the center, Erica could quiet the conscious self. She could direct her attention away from her own qualities – her expectations, her nerve, her reputation – and she could lose herself in the game. She could prevent herself from thinking too much, which is death to peak performance. She could merge with the patterns of the craft. She could fall back on the many hours of practice when she had done the same thing over and over and laid down certain models in her mind. And when she did this, her self-control was just outstanding, and nothing could ruffle her.”

Put the Writing Task at the Center

This is what writers need to do. To paraphrase Brooks, the effective writer does not allow herself to think about her resistance, her Saboteur, the editors who have failed to see her talent, or anyone or anything else that opposes her writing. She does not allow herself to think about rejection letters and nasty or indifferent feedback. Her performance will be judged by how often her fingers meet the keyboard and how consistently she shows up to write, and nothing else is in her control. Her own personality is not at the center. Her talent isn’t at the center. Her ego and self-worth are not at the center. The writing task is at the center.

This is how writers can quiet the conscious self and all the inner chatter that is the origin of resistance. The better we direct our attention away from our own qualities – our expectations, nerves, reputation – the easier it is to lose ourselves in the creative flow. We can prevent ourselves from thinking too much about ourselves as writers or about the quality of any given day’s writing – which is death to flow performance.

The better we do this, the more fully we can merge with the patterns and rhythms of our craft. We can fall back on the habits we have practiced. (If you don’t have writing habits yet, what are you waiting for? Register for The Writing Habit class now.) When we do this, our self-control will be outstanding and no block, no Saboteur, no resistance of any kind will ruffle us.

Write Right Now!

Go write. Go put your writing at the center. Not your ego-self, not your fantasies, hopes and fears, not your own or anyone else’s opinions about whether the writing is any good or worth the effort. Just the practice of writing itself. Put your writing practice at the center for 10 or 15 minutes.

After you’ve done this and after you’ve rewarded yourself for doing it (hint, hint), I’d love to hear how this focusing just on the practice of writing worked for you.

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