Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Post About Choking (or something)

I like Jonah Lehrer. I wrote about his book before: How to Decide. I never read the whole thing through, perhaps if I did, it would be very helpful for the likes of me as I can be the indecisive sort. I am very good at seeing all sides of any situation. Often that is too much information.

Lehrer has gotten his share of flack because he has said that depression is helpful. What I think he was trying to do was de-pathologize depression. A valid endeavor. Showing that depression has a way of making us work for things and it is not at all abnormal for us to feel down (don't we writer's know that well). There is something to be said for this. Just as we need anxiety so we don't get killed by a lion, we also need depression to keep us real (I don't know really, what do you think the flip side of depression is? Lehrer says it pushes us to deal with complex problems.). But Lehrer blurred the lines of his argument by just saying depression is good. He perhaps has not worked with folks that are deeply stuck in their sadness where depression has seriously impaired their life. Just ask my hubby (he's a therapist).

But generally I find Leher's brain work, brilliant and encompassing. His recent article on how not to choke has helped me with many things. Starting up The Practice Room, even though it scared the heck out of me(it is going great though and has been a thrill). Getting through this recent block. Maybe this article will even help me get through reading my whole darn unfinished book. Nah!

I have a tendency to over think things, yes a tendency towards depression (good thing I live with a therapist. Thanks, honey!), but once I know the things, recognize the switch in my brain that needs to be turned off, I need to let myself get into the flow to fix it. 'Cause as we learned from my last post deliberate practice means pushing ourselves to work on the things that we don't know how to do. It is what makes us better at things. It is what Mozart did, Tiger Woods does all the time, and just look at Agatha Christie's notebooks! It is that switch from revision to drafting, polishing to practicing, choking to writing. As the Bhagavad Gita says: your right is the performance of actions, but not it's fruit. An interpretation of that is: using your gift is it's own satisfaction, so do what you do for it's own sake. It is simply part of your being.

Here is a quote from Jonah Lehrer:

There was a way to ward off choking. When the expert golfers[read "writers"] contemplated a holistic cue word[such as; smart funny fast, interesting], their performance was no longer affected by anxiety. Because the positive adjectives were vague and generic, they didn't cause the athletes[read "word-smiths"] to lose the flow of expert performance or overrule their automatic brain.

Off to try that out!