Writing and performance under pressure

As I wrote in one of my last posts, I’m working on my seminar, The Leadership Lab, in Australia at the end of the year. I came across this interview this morning with Sally Jenkins, award winning sports journalist and author, with  Lance Armstrong, of the best-seller, It’s Not About the Bike. She talks about performing under pressure, and  compares writing to sports. I love how she makes the link between the body and mind in the writing process. Read the full interview here.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Ben says:


    thanks for this really educational post. Today I am physically sick – burnt out from university (written )discussions, essays, and a thesis.

    One thing that it isn’t pointed out though is the effect of the content on the writer. In my early days of university. I was asked to write stories. The physicality and emotionality involved was tremendous. The naked vulnerability associated with putting yourself out there in front of your peers tremendous. Though that was always a last thought – at least in my mind.

    As a writer you are negotiating multiple perspectives at once. You are facilitating a conversation between perspectives/ people/ centres and margins and an audience.

    Writing is an act of democracy. I got to get in shape :)


    I think some of Sally’s advice will come in handy. It might even out my approach a little.


  2. Mary Shaffer says:

    I’m intrigued by your repeatedly turning to athletes as an analogy to creativity, performing under pressure and habit forming. For me, it speaks to the strange polarity within me, and I observe outside of me, that we/I think when someone’s performance is so spectacular, that it “must come easy” for them. It’s the strange, compelling paradox of the beauty of hard work, it comes across as so incredibly talented, well written, well sustained, that it looks so simple. Honestly, sometimes it just pisses me off! :) And yet, it’s one of the few solid truths. That being that aspect of when we really give ourselves to something and stick with it, even through the pain and the struggle, there’s tremendous feelings of reward at the end.
    Yet, I continue to read these blogs with my role of a mother and the stress I have in my life to balance so much, under very hard pressed circumstances. The time in my day to really “train” is so much more limited, at this juncture. Yet, the performance pressure is quite, quite high. And in as much as that is true, it calls on many similar requests: eating well, getting good rest, finding a replenishing rhythm. But, it’s fucking hard! And nevertheless, it also, as I imagine it does when you are in a position of “leadership” ir requires at times to really drop an aspect of my identity and really focus, in that incredibly sustained way of an athlete and be totally in the here and now and call forth that quality of calm that is so often described, much like I remember it being shared about Michael Jordan. As a mother, one of my greatest challenges, at times, is to let go of what I want and attend to what is right before me. Reminds me of your story about your dear dog, knowing what I know and then, dropping it.
    I imagine that writing, leadership and parenting really “invites” us to dig down into a resource we want, don’t think we have and then, in those sacred moments, found out, is really there.
    Hope this all makes sense.

    • juliediamond says:

      Thanks Mary.You point our that I/we all turn to our immediate life activities as a way to understand and describe our experiences. And oddly enough I was just writing the other day about parenting as a metaphor for performing under pressure. I’m glad you include this aspect into the conversation, would love to hear more.

  3. Mary Shaffer says:

    This is a great forum for me. Reading your blog and contributing. I miss being available to be in Portland and being a student of PW right there and then. So, thank you for this.
    Yes, parenting is very much a performance under pressure. I probably have A LOT to say about it. If you have specific questions, I’d love to answer them and engage in grappling and becomeing more aware of this role I am in.
    I feel priveleged to have chosen working with children as a path many,many years before I became a parent. I have worked with children for 30 years. I cringe when I think of some of the things I said to parents, when I wasn’t a part of that “group”. And I know I came to parenting with a lot more tools then most parents arrive at parenting with. It requires so much and I am so grateful to have many, many tools in my tool kit, both consensus reality and deeper dreaming. I so look forward to brining Dawn down here to do a training next month, to see how she has folded parenting into her skills as a well seasoned PW’er. I think that being able to have the ability to know when I’m attached and one sided, when I’m fluid and to teach my kids about roles and trying to occupy different positions is SO COOL! AND I’m exhausted. I miss Paul and our preparenting freedoms, and I truly feel like I am the lead that is being turned into gold ( hopefuly ) by choosing this path of parenting. And I’m grateful to have such a great partner to raise children with. The two of us surely have been under “the gun” a term I remember from a long ago World Work, and we are a great team.

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