Sian Beilock, a psychologist who has studied and written about choking, argues that when we’re under a tremendous amount of pressure, anxiety over the prospect of failure floods the prefrontal cortex and overwhelms the brain’s capacity to do what should be second-nature.
"If we’re doing a task that normally operates largely outside of conscious awareness, such as an easy golf swing, what screws us up is the impulse to think about and control our actions," Beilock [says]. "Suddenly we’re too attentive to what we’re doing, and all the training that has improved our motor skills is for naught, since our conscious attention is essentially hijacking motor memory."
There’s also evidence that the brain’s hemispheres play a role in making us over-think. Automatic performance behaviors seem to be controlled by the right hemisphere, and “rumination” by the left. Because the right hemisphere controls movements of the left side of the body, one study found that athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand before competing were less likely to choke. The squeezing somehow helped activate the automatic portion of the brain on the right.
The psychology of why we – and even Olympic athletes – choke.
Still, autopilot might prevent us from choking, but it also prevents us from improving.
Pair with this beautiful meditation on courage and the fear of failure.
There is fascinating stuff here for teaching. Perhaps this can explain some test anxiety for students who perform well in class, but not on tests.
"It comes back to the question, whom are you writing for? Who are the readers you want? Who are the people you want to engage with the things that matter most to you? And for me, it’s people who don’t need it all spelled out because they know it, they understand it. That’s why there’s so much I can’t read because I get so exasperated. Someone starts describing the character boarding the plane and pulling the seat back. And I just want to say, Babe, I have been downtown. (laughter) I have been up in a plane. Give me some credit."
Amy Hempel (via)
All to often, because students tend to write for an audience of one, they miss out on this important part of craft. This type of thing has been echoed by a number of authors.
Thanks to Austin Kleon for this great find.
"Your writing can only be as good as the best books you’ve read. … It’s true, too, that your writing can only be as good as the best readings you’ve given of the best books. … Better to read one good book well than a hundred poorly. Aspire to be a world class reader."
Writing tips from Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Paul Harding, who echoes Henry Miller on the art of reading and seconds Jennifer Egan’s assertion that "reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work."
To optimize that, learn how to read like a writer, then see the greatest books of all time as voted by 125 top contemporary authors.
This is so important to young readers and writers. So many of my students don’t read and don’t know how to read as writers. This is tantamount to being a good writer at whatever level.
(Source: , via explore-blog)
keyboardsanddarkness asked: Hope I'm not late on the office hours. Hi! My question is this: how do you balance being active online, working on your projects and marketing already-finished projects? As a writer trying to be more public(ish), I feel like I'm floundering as I try to find myself in all those pop words like brand and platform and "interact with your fans!" and so on and so forth.
Forget about that shit. Show your work.
What you do online should be in the middle of a venn diagram between what’s helpful and/or interesting to you and what’s helpful and/or interesting to others.
For example: I use this Tumblr as a way to keep track of stuff I’m interested in, and research I’m doing. But I SHARE it in a way that might be interesting to other people. So what I get then is basically a public file folder that benefits both me and the people who follow the Tumblr.
As far as balancing working and sharing, it goes in this order:
You do your work, then every day you find a little bit of your process that you can share with others. Depending on where you are in the process, sometimes it’s in-progress work, sometimes it’s research or something you’re reading, sometimes it’s a finished work, and sometimes it’s a story about what something you’ve made is doing out in the world.
But again, sorry for the hard sell, but I wrote my whole next book about this. You should pre-order it!
The Venn Diagram part.
"The argument is this: Writing in public, whether it’s in the form of blogs or microblogs, like a Twitter stream, is forcing us to be clearer, more convincing and smarter. A big audience isn’t required. Knowing you write for an audience of just a few people will force you to stretch and grow."
— How Blogging And Twitter Are Making Us Smarter | NPR (via unionmetrics)