Sunday, August 24, 2008

Guest author Roberta Isleib

Our guest author this Sunday is Roberta Isleib, author of at least five Golf-Lover Mysteries (one even takes place in Hawaii!) and three Advice Column mysteries. Roberta is also president of Sisters in Crime National and a clinical psychologist. When Roberta speaks, I listen. Enjoy!

Are any of you bleary-eyed from watching the Olympics the way I am? I haven’t run, jumped, or swum one step and I’m exhausted! But one of the neat things about the coverage is the focus on sports psychology and how important the mind is for training and winning. I spent a fair amount of time studying this subject when I first became obsessed with golf and writing my golf mystery series.

Ten years later, my golf dreams have receded, replaced by dreams about making it big as a writer. Did I waste my time chasing down wisdom from the sports pros? Not at all! In fact, I use many of their tips to help manage the ambitions and fears of my writing life—and my “regular” life as well.

Dr. Richard Keefe, clinical psychologist and author of On the Sweet Spot, explained that winning a big tournament changes your life financially. “That practical reality aside,” said Keefe, “most players have dreamed about winning since childhood. They can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to win. And that is exactly the worst mindset for good golf.” His advice? Develop a pre-shot routine that kicks in on the tee, quieting the caucus in your mind. Translation to writing: Write every morning on the same computer, at the same desk, the same dog at my feet.

Golf psychologist Joseph Parent, author of Zen Golf, told me that the greatest pressure is generated by the prestige or ego status involved with the prospect of winning a big tournament. “Hope and fear crescendo at the same time,” said Parent. “Players hope to win the tournament and the benefits that come with it, while at the same time, they fear blowing the opportunity. The combination produces tension and stress.” Parent counseled “firing your own inner evil caddie.” Translation to writing: I give myself permission to write a lousy first draft, roughing the story out first and fixing the words later.

Dr. Shane Murphy, author of The Achievement Zone, counsels elite athletes to break down their goals into specific process, rather than product-oriented steps. They are directed to focus less on winning and more on improving their performance independent of scores. Translation to writing: I map out daily and weekly word-count goals on my calendar, and reward myself when I reach them.

And finally, sports psychologist Dr. Bea Epstein-Shepard told me: “Your subconscious mind is looking for big opportunities.” She suggested identifying big goals and then literally making these aspirations concrete: Paste them on the wall to give the imagination and subconscious a goal, and then set them aside to concentrate on the small steps that might bring you closer to those goals. Translation to writing: I keep a photograph of the winner of the 2006 Edgar award for best mystery novel and a copy of the New York Times bestseller list pinned on the wall above my desk. And then I move on to the writing.

But every once in while, I imagine the gown that I’ll wear to the ceremony…

Clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib’s third advice column mystery, ASKING FOR MURDER (Berkley), will be published on September 2.

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