Friday, August 13, 2010

RWA 2010 - A-Day Dr John Barletta

Dr John Barletta is a clinical psychologist who came to talk to us about Engagement and Flow in your writing life.  These are my notes from his (rather hurried) talk, and I think they give a few starting points where writers can examine their own motivation (or lack of) to write.

  • The problem with wanting to write but not following through is not due to a lack of information, rather it's about motivation and commitment
  • Be careful of the shoulds.  "I should do this," "I should do that," but never actually doing them and getting caught up in the fact you haven't done them.
  • To change from an unmotivated writer to a motivated writer, you will go through the Stages of Change
  • Don't fall into the trap of 'learned helplessness', ie, believing you are helpless and therefore not helping yourself.
  • Referred to Marty Seligman and his positive psychology website 
  • How to thrive

    • Happiness comes from a good life (Eudaimonia) which is made up of
      • a pleasant life - emotion (love) and pleasure
      • engagement - competence and mastery
      • meaningful life - meaning and purpose
  • Flow and Personality
    • Flow - or being 'in the zone' when you write, is where you want to be
    • When you are in the flow you feel tireless, serene, ecstatic (ie outside yourself), immersed and impervious to outside events, have greater creativity, confidence in completion of activity
    • There is a personality type which falls more easily into this state of flow than other types, called the Autotelic personality
      • Autotelic personality has high concentration, persistence, low self-centeredness, high rate of performing actions for an intrinsic reason, ie, I write because I must
    • How to develop an Autotelic personality?
      • Set clear goals
      • Become immersed in the activity - mindfulness training can help with this
      • learn to enjoy the immediate experience and immediate feedback
      • "perfect practice makes perfect"
  • Twenty four signature strengths - can take a test for these at Marty Seligman website above.
  • Using your strengths brings happiness
  • Rules to stay alive
    • Learn to retreat and advance from every position you take
    • Guard your impotence as your most valuable weapon, ie, be up front about your limits, use them to say NO
    • Face the fact that you will grow old and die
    • Develop a sense of being
    • Laugh at the absurdity of life

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Kirsty said...

Thanks for sharing this Cait, I wish I was conferencing with you.
This session sounded very interesting- I will definitely be checking out that positive psychology website in more detail.
But one thing that struck me as odd was the line about knowing your impotence and using it to say no, this didn't seem very positive at all to me. In fact, it basically says don't ever grow outside your comfort zone? Or if you're not good at something, you don't have to make an effort to improve? Have I got the meaning of this point right?

Caitlyn Nicholas said...

Hi Kristy, thanks for your comment.

When Dr Barletta made the comment about knowing your impotence he made it clear that he was talking about not overwhelming yourself. But I know what you mean, the phrasing of it surprised me as well.

Basically he was saying to know your own limitations and not be afraid to say no to some activity or request if it was going to seriously overwhelm you.

Eg, you are obligated to volunteer at a dog shelter because they supported your romance with a dog in it, yet you are terrified of dogs. Dr Barletta believes that you should let the feeling of obligation go because otherwise it'll put you under an unreasonable level of stress.

If that makes any sense at all. :)

Kirsty said...

That makes sense, all bar the romance with a dog (jokes, I know what you mean). More to get rid of the guilt and stop feeling you are obligated to do things.

I am definitely all for the power of no. It took me a while (like a decade) to be comfortable using it, and now I look back on my 20s and think of how much time I wasted doing things for other people which probably didn't mean that much to them, but took an immense amount of time/energy on my part. I will never get those days back! Obligation and the accompanying guilt trips are hard to negotiate - you want to have time for yourself, but need to be able to live with yourself as well (you can't say no to everything!).

Good stuff, thanks for making me think!