We all encounter situations in our writing life when we find ourselves under lots of pressure. We may be facing a looming deadline, coping with a creative logjam or embroiled in a revision that isn’t going well. At times like these we can feel stressed. How do we handle clutch situations gracefully instead of choking? That’s precisely what the book Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t explores. Written by Paul Sullivan, a writer for the New York Times, it describes five factors that successful “clutch hitters” call into play to ensure high performance:
1) Focus: intentionally mapping what you want to achieve by thinking through the steps to get there and deciding what your endgame or goal is.
2) Discipline: staying with your plan, even when you feel overwhelming by challenges that threaten to derail it. This is often the pivotal factor in success.
3) Adapting: knowing when and how to fine-tune your plan in the face of new information and sudden insight.
4) Being present: staying in the “flow” and being in a state of heightened awareness so that you fully harness your creativity in the service of your goal.
5) Managing fear and desire: using these emotions to motivate and drive you rather than letting them freeze you into inaction.
While drawing on these five assets, there are three “choke” principles that will help you as well: taking responsibility for your role in the clutch situation you’re in; avoiding overthinking so you can stay focused on the present; and avoiding overconfidence, so you can take advantage of your focus and discipline.
The next time I hit a pressure-cooker situation in my writing, I’m going to reread this post!