2 Psycho-Techniques for People in the Arts

Man alone at sunsetFrom childhood on, there have been moments in my life–and I think you have experienced this in your life too—when I’ve had to perform and no one could help me—not my mother, not my wife, not a friend.

The responsibility for what would happen next was completely my own—standing alone on a stage in an auditorium looking into the 12,000 eyes of the 6,000 people who had paid money to hear what I had to say, for instance. Or standing at the starting line of an 800 meter race with seven highly trained athletes that in a couple of minutes I would be trying hard to beat as they would be trying just as hard to beat me.

Runner in blue running suit at starting lineIt’s very lonely knowing that whether or not you will succeed depends solely on your own skills, your own personality and character, your own preparation, and your own strengths. Then no one can help you, no one can write the novel for you, no one can paint the portrait for you today, or dance in your place, or perform your role in tonight’s play. You’re on your own, my friend. Will you be at the height of your talent today or won’t you? Will you have it? Will your work be good? Will you be satisfied?

At crucial moments–beginnings, endings, changes of direction–everything you are, everything you know and hope for, everything that drives you, and all the capabilities you’ve worked so hard to develop and refine to the highest possible level are brought to bear on that always-ultimate artist’s goal–to produce a work of which you will be proud.

I’m a great believer in using psycho-techniques to help performance and wrote a whole book about them that an internet poll named “best motivational book evert written”–Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life.

I’d like to recommend two psycho-techniques here that I find useful: Think Aloud Strategies and Brief Performance Cues. They will be helpful whatever your art, whatever your occupation.


Use Think Aloud Strategies to Inspire Yourself

a mouth talking into an earWhen you write, you’re asking yourself, “Does it sound right?” “Does it flow?” “Is it a good quality?” You’re also “self-instructing.” Self-instruction is talking to yourself to guide actions and telling yourself what strategies you should use. A writer may self-instruct to use more imagery in the story, and self-monitor to count the number of images or tell herself, “My mind is starting to wander. I should focus my attention better.”

“Think aloud” strategies involve verbalizing “private speech,” the kind of speech you don’t usually use in public. People don’t generally talk aloud to themselves, and when they do, their speech is often incoherent. But sometimes thinking aloud to yourself clarifies your understanding and activates problem-solving.

A think-aloud strategy often entails reciting out loud the chatter that’s going on in your head. Describing to yourself how to proceed and execute a task should improve performance.  For example, you might say aloud, “There are too many long sentences: mix long and short sentences.” Self-verbalizations such as self-praise statements—“I’m really doing well”–verbalizing the strategies you’re using—“I’m keeping track of time”–and actions you’re taking—“I’m stopping to review the paragraph before moving on”– are extremely  helpful kinds of thinking aloud.


Use Brief Performance Cues

Performance cues are important reminders that you repeat silently or say aloud. Focus on a few simple reminders–summaries of the main things you’re trying to accomplish—that you should bear in mind: “I want my writing style to be simpler.” The cue you’ll repeat to yourself, “Simplicity!” Completing a project brings the artist elation. A project cannot be a work of art until it is finished.  Not starting, but finishing works, is the artist’s credo. The cue is “Finish!’ “Finish!”  Above all else, if you are a writer your writing should always be clear. The writer’s cue is “Clarity.”

Thumb up with a smiley face on the thumbBoil your whole performance down to a few statements, words, phrases, or images:


“Relaxed and confident”

“Good work today”

“Stay focused”

“Organized and sharp.”



“I’m in the groove

“Grit and guts!”

“Take risks.”



The cues will excite your spirit. They will improve your performance. Begin by writing out performance cues you will use when you’re working.


Those psycho-techniques along with the insights you can find in Fighting To Win should help you make the most of your talent.


© 2020 David J. Rogers

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Filed under Advice, Creativity Self-Improvement, Developing Talent, Human Potential and Achievement, Motivation, Producing Artistic Work, Productivity, Psycho-Techniques

24 responses to “2 Psycho-Techniques for People in the Arts

  1. Martial X

    Great Article.

    Thank you David!


  2. This is marvelous, David — and so are your books. Hugs on the wing.


  3. Good morning David,

    Thank you very much for this helpful post. I have printed it out and will pin up next to my desk.

    You are so right about performing alone…..I have found like all things in life the more I do this, the better (I wouldn’t say easier) it gets. I believe that we have to develop personal techniques to help us through these ‘alone’ moments.

    I very much like the idea of talking to oneself…saying out loud what it is that’s going on inside. An excellent tip.

    I also like the idea of ‘performance cues’. Perhaps I should say the cues I use out loud each day before working. Another great idea.

    I personally think that ‘starting’ and ‘finishing are of equal importance.

    I hope you, Don and the rest of the family continue to be well during these very interesting times we are living in.

    Jant 🙂


    • Dear Janet,

      Thank you for your compliment–your pinning the post up for your use. The best way I have found to deal with that loneliness when you’re completely without any help, I think you’ll agree with. And that is preparation. Whatever the job that had to be done, I would put in sometimes extraordinary amounts of work for the sake of preparation. For example, when I gave talks, my goal was always that during the questions and answers period that there would be no question I couldn’t answer intelligently. In running, the goal was always to feel that I had a good chance to win. You and I have spoken about preparation before.

      You’re very right in pointing out the importance of starting. It is hard for me to start some writing projects unless I feel extremely–if not totally–confident that they will go well. I’ve often said that if I get the first paragraph right, writing the rest of it is a breeze. Do you feel the same about painting and about your writing?

      Like you, I talk to myself. (Who else are you going to talk to when you’re working alone?)

      Thank you for your kind wishes for Diana and my family. They are all being careful and trying not to take risks. The new twins are doing well, getting pudgy, and are very cute. I hope you and your son and daughter are also safe and doing well.



      • Good morning David…I was taught from a very early age that preparation, preparation, preparation was the name of the game:). Plus I was a girl guide and you know what the motto is…Be Prepared.

        I totally agree with what you say about the first paragraph syndrome. I know almost from the very start if a painting is going to work, especially a watercolour, and I believe the same is true for writing and area which I am enjoying more and more but don’t have as much experience as I do with painting. I twill come.

        Not only do I talk to myself but as I type (like now) I say out loud what I am writing:)

        Everyone seems to be in fine fettle as we say – although frankly given the fact that so many seem to not take social distancing seriously, here and elsewhere, I fear for a second wave. However, today in my little bubble it is calm and lovely. A day I plan to paint, write and watch a good European murder mystery…..

        Stay safe and well and may your pen flow across the page. Janet X


        • Dear Janet,

          I know when I’ve gotten the first paragraph or the first few paragraphs right–the way they should (must) be. I can point out reasons why I think it’s good, but more important than those logical reasons is the intuitive sense that you can’t make it any better. It sounds like you feel the same way as you begin a painting–feelings more than thoughts. Thank you for the comment.

          People here too are, I think, being too careless now that things are “opening up.” They’re not being careful enough. Diana and I are being very careful, and it sounds as though you are as well. And that’s good. Our children come here once in awhile with their familiy and stand some distance from us, and we go out and we all talk, wishing we could hug and kiss, but not being able to.

          Please stay in good health. Enjoy your work today and your murder mystery. I think I’ll watch a Western later on. (Do they watch Westerns in the UK?


          Liked by 1 person

        • We love Westerns in the UK:)


        • That’s so cute. English buckeroos.”Stick ’em up, Old Chap.”

          Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s very interesting,David.I have never thought about talking out loud to myself.I shall try it out.Sometimes just starting is the hardest for me.
    I quite like doing editing and looking at each word/sentence to see if is the best one for that experience or feeling


    • Katherine, It sounds that, like me, you have to get the opening of the piece in good (perfect?) order before you can go on. I know that some teachers say that to begin the piece, the writer should just type words without worrying about how finished the piece is or how it sounds. Thats the rough draft, they say. I completely disagree with them for myself–get the first paragraph or the first few just as you want them before going on. That’s my way. I do like your careful concern with the individual words in the beginning.
      Thank you for your comment.

      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, you are right,David.I feel if the beginning is not right then it does not lead to a good poem.But I often do a lot of editing of the remainder.I feel like a sculptor knocking off bits that are not creating what I want.Though even that I don’t usually know before I begin.The words evoke other words and even messages from my deeper mind.Best wishes to you David
        from Katherine


  5. Maybe if I apply the feeling of “Boldness” a can “get back in the groove” with my novel in progress. I’d like to feel bold. LOL. This post was well worth another read. Thanks, David. Hugs.


    • Dear Friend,

      I’m taking your situation to heart and want to help you find a solution. This may sound self-serving, but it really isn’t. I’ve suggested to other people what I’m suggesting to you when they’ve faced similar snags. I think you have a copy of my book Fighting to Win. I suggest you read it again. Many people have found it very motivating. Some people have read it, and thereafter simply looked at it, and it motivated them to achieve their goals. I have every confidence in the book and think reading it will be of great benefit to you.
      I wrote a post on boldness. Here is the link: https://wp.me/p4Ia7A-NF

      Thank you for the comment,


  6. I think this works both ways. People with low self-esteem often end up talking down to themselves and it becomes a vicious cycle then.


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