“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the
other half is physical.”
Love that quote, don’t you? If baseball is ninety percent mental, then so is just about any sport. Take golf. Take Tiger. Once at the top of his game, he’s now adrift. He’s in a slump. He may be a chump, but he’s definitely a chump in a slump. And when you’re in a slump, as most coaches will tell you, you begin to question every aspect of what you’re doing, from your technique to thorny deeper issues like what you’ve done wrong and what else you might be doing with your life.
Here’s how one sports pro put it, “Tiger’s swing is fundamentally the same. His confidence level is not.” And this goes to show, the analyst added, that it’s the mental side of the sport that’s most important to success — perhaps by as much as, ninety percent. Wow! There it is again. Ninety percent! And you can probably make a strong case that what’s true in sports is true for any undertaking — writing included — that requires intense discipline and lots of practice.
So if success is ninety percent mental, when you’re in a slump, what’s a writer to do? Most of us know from experience, you can’t think yourself out of a slump: you’ve got to hit your way out or write your way out. How, exactly? Here again, we can take a tip from sports: When Yankees coach Joe Girardi has a player who’s not performing up to par, I read that he focuses on “process” — on mechanics, not mindset.
This makes sense for several reasons: first, mechanics are within your control; second, focusing on mechanics diverts your attention from mental mind games; and third, as my friend and mentor, Rob Gilbert says, “actions change attitudes, motions change emotions, movements change moods.” So if you’ve hit a writing slump, forget the angst and focus on action: concentrate on your process, your mechanics — sharpen them up or shake them up to get things moving again.