Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Inner Game of Writing

One of the most useful writing books I've ever read, by far, isn't even about writing. It's about tennis.

It's The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. I'm serious.

The central concept of the book is this: there are two parts of our minds we can use when we try creative endeavors. Gallwey calls them Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is the part of our mind that labels our actions, judges us, and talks to us. This is the part of our mind that usually buries us in negative self-talk.

Self 2, on the other hand, is the part of our minds that quietly observes our actions without judgment. It's the more physical and less verbal part of our minds.

Self 1 has a voice, Self 2 does not.

And that's a problem. When Self 1 is in control, we are judging ourselves, measuring our actions--and usually doing both harshly: "I suck. I'll never be any good. I just can't hit the ball."

But when Self 2 governs our actions, there's silence in our minds. We're engrossed in the game and we're in a state of mindfulness and quiet awareness.

Writers reading The Inner Game of Tennis will recognize Self 1 instantly. It's our internal editor, our inner critic. It's that voice in our heads that judges, corrects and criticizes every single word we type. And that voice doesn't just tell us we suck at writing or tennis--it tells us we suck at everything.

And regular readers of this blog will also instantly recognize Self 2: it's the state of flow.

I am not exaggerating when I say that not only did this book completely change how I play tennis, it completely changed how I think about creative work. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Get this book and read it. You won't regret it.