insecure writers support group, writing

#IWSG Mental Blocks and Resilience

Holla, writers! Happy August to you.

Join us at IWSG or Alex Cavanaugh’s blog.

Thank you to the wonderful August co-hosts: PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve binged on coverage of my two favorite sports: swimming and volleyball. American swimmer Caleb Dressel was electrifying!

Credit: Los Angeles Times

I’ve also felt inspired by stories of resilience in multiple sports, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Athletes like the brave and lovely Simone Biles have strived to handle challenges such as mental blocks.

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, but what about mental blocks? Overcoming them in sports like gymnastics, diving, and equestrian is one such opportunity for resilience. Mental blocks, also known as balking or the yips, occur when athletes struggle to complete skills they’ve done hundreds of times before. They try to force themselves, but they just can’t go. Every gymnast has experienced mental blocks. But how difficult to face one on the world stage at the Olympics!

Sport psychologist Alan Goldberg frames mental blocks as a trauma response. The traumas can be a serious injury, scary fall, or even witnessing another athlete survive a near miss. If I made a mistake in swimming, I swam slower. When gymnasts make mistakes, they might sustain horrific injuries. And their bodies remember the past fear, creating the fight, flight, or freeze response. No matter how hard athletes try to throw the skill, their bodies freeze. It’s so frustrating for them.

Traumas can also be personal, like a severe car accident or sexual assault. For an athlete who has experienced multiple traumas, their bodies may lock up. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a survival mechanism. I applaud any athlete experiencing this struggle who takes care of herself and puts her health first. These superstar athletes are human, with needs for safety and respect just like all of us.

This month’s question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique.

Speaking of trauma, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is enlightening.

I also enjoyed the classic On Writing by Stephen King.

15 thoughts on “#IWSG Mental Blocks and Resilience”

    1. Ha ha! I love that simple explanation for the mental blocks. Too bad the sport requires you to do it again and again and again! The body couldn’t care less about throwing that double back–it only cares about survival. Looking at the ratings, Alex, you’re not alone in foregoing Olympic coverage this year.


  1. Hi,
    I too must confess that the Olympics has not been on my list. However, I did hear about the mental block and thought that is just like writers’ block. There has been lots of stress because of the pandemic and many people are suffering. We all need time to get in touch with ourselves.
    Wishing you all the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s cool that we both compared mental blocks to writer’s block, Pat! This pandemic SUCKS. I’m so disheartened to see masks coming back into my world. Hope writing helps you feel more connected to yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Jennifer! I’ve been watching as much of the Olympics as I can. I love the Olympics, and I am 100% behind Simone Biles. Speaking up for mental health is important. I love King’s book. I hope that you are enjoying IWSG Day. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad Simone is getting a lot of support, Louise! Sorry I’m having trouble commenting on your blog from my MacBook. Thank you for the recommendation of What a Writer Needs. I also saw your post about Jesus Christ Superstar. My sister was actually in the touring production of the show years ago, and I was lucky to meet Ted Neely and Carl Anderson!


  3. Simone is providing a great example to us all. I’d offer to fight people for her, but she clearly doesn’t need my help. She’s killing it. Go Simone!

    I’m usually an Olympics junkie, but I haven’t seen much this year.

    I had never heard of that thesaurus. I’m currently working on something light-hearted and not too trauma-y, but you can never know about too many reference books!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear Olympic viewership is way down this year–too bad. I’m sad it’s over, but I guess I can catch up with my other shows I’ve neglected!

      Good luck with your story, Lori.


    1. Funny that you mention Joe Kovacs, J, because he now lives in my town of Columbus, Ohio! (He’s from Bethlehem, PA?) There was a gold medal pole vaulter from Cleveland but I don’t know of any Olympians hailing from Columbus.

      Too bad I can’t comment on your blog, but how cool that you’ve written so many writing craft books!


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