Holla, writers! Happy August to you.
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!
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.