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.

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Cover Reveal: THE REINVENTION OF JINX HOWELL by @Nancee_Cain

Title: The Reinvention of Jinx Howell
Series: Pine Bluff #5
Author: Nancee Cain
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 22, 2019Cover Designer: Shannon Lumetta

Hiding behind her wigs and heavy makeup, Jinx Howell masks her insecurities—which even she doesn’t understand—with bravado, slashing through life with reckless abandon. Lonely, but unwilling to get close to anyone, she finds the ideal solution: a hook-up with the campus’s most notorious heartbreaker.
In similar fashion, Mark “Two-Time” MacGregor protects his heart and keeps himself unencumbered through a string of one-night stands. A chance meeting with the edgy Jinx in a dark alley seems like destiny. She claims to want sex with no ties, making her perfect. Like attracts like. But this girl with a switchblade has more hang-ups than he does, which is a hell of a lot.
When tragedy strikes, Mark’s hit-and-run lifestyle takes a backseat to his need to protect the broken girl whose secrets are unraveling. Along the way, both of them will find their truths unmasked. Can they forge a real relationship, or will they give up on their romance as jinxed?
 

During the day, Nancee works as a counselor/nurse in the field of addiction to support her coffee and reading habit. Nights are spent writing paranormal and contemporary romances with a serrated edge. Authors are her rock stars, and she’s been known to stalk a few for an autograph, but not in a scary, Stephen King way. Her husband swears her To-Be-Read list on her e-reader qualifies her as a certifiable book hoarder. Always looking to try something new, she dreams of being an extra in a Bollywood film, or a tattoo artist. (Her lack of rhythm and artistic ability may put a damper on both of these dreams.)
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Stress is Good For Us! #IWSG

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the Insecure Writers Support Group! Learn more HERE.

I’ve been focusing on the psycho part of my psycho author career lately. I just finished a professional conference in Big Sky, Montana, and head back down the mountain today. Right now it’s -17 F! Here’s the view from my hotel room:


I presented on treating trauma in a special population, and shared my “screen door” metaphor to explain flashbacks. Check out this POST if you’re interested in how to write PTSD more accurately. It was wonderful connecting with colleagues.

One excellent TED talk I learned about at the conference is about how stress can be good for us. So if your heart’s racing, your stomach full of butterflies, your muscles tingling…those are signs your body is preparing to rise to the challenge!


Progress is slow with my WIP, and sales aren’t great. But I continue to enjoy the opportunity to create characters and stories.

How’s your month going?

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Breathe.

How have you felt since the Boston Marathon terrorist attack?

I’ve felt horror, disgust, rage, and sadness. Right now I feel numb.

And this is from miles away. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I’d been on ground zero, witnessing the carnage.

But I can imagine what it’s like to face trauma such as rape, abuse, accidents, and crime. I hear it from my psychotherapy clients all too often.

Survivors of trauma like bombings or abuse may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a clinical syndrome I detail HERE in my Psycho Author series. Quite a few of my characters have struggled to heal from PTSD.

What’s a simple tool to help anyone who’s endured a traumatic event? BREATHE.

When we get scared, our breathing changes, becoming quicker and shallower, or stopping for a moment. Such changes only serve to increase our panic and tension.

Simply paying attention to our breath can help calm us when we’re feeling stressed. But deep breathing, aka diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, is even more helpful.

1) Take a few moments to notice your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out your mouth. Let your body’s natural rhythm of breathing gently become slower and deeper, but still easy and relaxed.

2) Let that breath go deep into your belly. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly (below your belly button). Keep the hand on your chest still, while pushing out the hand on your belly with air.

3) The diaphragm is the muscle lining beneath your lungs. Feel the diaphragm push down as you inhale.

I hope that noticing your breath helps you deal with the multitude of feelings from the Boston Marathon or other traumatic events.