I’ve been dealing with some mega writer’s block these past few days, which has got me wondering whether it’s possible for someone to spontaneously lose their most well-developed skills. That’s obviously true in the athletic realm, where the dreaded Steve Blass Disease has ended more than a few baseball careers. The problem with such vexed athletes is fairly obvious, and best summarized by a quote from Bull Durham: “Don’t think, Meat. Just throw.” An egghead description is here:
Motor learning may initially rely on more explicit and prefrontal areas, but after extended practice and expertise, shift to more dorsal areas, but thinking about the movement can shift activity back to the less skilled explicit areas. Although many explanations may be derived, one could argue that these athletes show that even when years of practice has given the implicit system an exquisitely fine tuned memory for a movement, the explicit system can interfere at the time of performance and erase all evidence of implicit memory.
But how does this apply to more intellectual pursuits, in which motor skills are subordinate to less tangible assets such as creativity, tonal sense, and the comprehension of logic? Is the key to overcoming mental blocks the ability to extinguish conscious thought about process? That doesn’t seem right, as creating something worthwhile—whether a piece of prose, a musical composition, or a really solid PowerPoint presentation—would seem to require lots and lots revision, and thus a degree of self-awareness that athletes (who only get one crack at each action) don’t really need. But I do understand how “overthinking” can interfere with intellectual output—it’s obviously detrimental to obsess over how each and every line, note, or slide will be received.
If anyone can offer advice on how to snap the brain back to its former state, those tips would be greatly appreciated. Just, please, no suggestions that I give up the Dragon Stout. Ain’t gonna happen.