Staying in the Zone

Imagine you are a pitcher stepping up to the mound. The pounding of your heart muffled only by the roar of the crowd. The batter waits. But just before the baseball escapes from your fingertips, the familiar suddenly becomes unfamiliar. You are overly conscious of your motions, your pitch flies wildly. You choke. A pitcher’s nightmare.

In baseball, the sudden loss of pitching ability is known as Steve Blass Disorder, named after a Major League player who famously saw his career ended after self-awareness and negativity crippled his pitching.

As writers, we are not immune to similar fears. Fears that our creativity has limits. That we will run out of ideas. That we will never be able to complete another project.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, addresses the artist’s mysterious creative genius on a TED talk, entitled “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” She says that pre-Renaissance cultures attributed inspiration to supernatural sources, putting distance between the artist and the creative process. This allowed the artist to take less credit for a success but also to take less blame for a failure. She suggests that artists of today can explore the idea of an external source of inspiration to relieve some of their anxiety.  To allow the writer to fearlessly do the work he or she feels called to do.

Many years after he left his professional career, Steve Blass learned how to trade negative thoughts for positive ones. He speaks of his struggles in this interview. He was able to return to the mound to pitch for games between former pros and amateurs. He again experienced the joy of baseball.

Whether athlete or artist, I believe it’s important for us to maintain a positive attitude. We can choose to set aside our fears and negativity. We can even allow ourselves to consider the existence of some unidentified source of influence that awakens ideas for us. Then we can continue to do our part of shaping words into something meaningful while we keep an eye out for that inspiration.

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