Three days before traveling to the Early Bird, I confronted what I considered to be the heart of the issue.
If indeed I was going to play the tournament, I sure as hell wasn't going to roll over and play dead. I told myself, "Even if it's true that you have deteriorated and are destined to become a 1450 patzer for life, you need -- you need -- a way to ensure that you can bring your best game to the table, every game, and focus on making your best play, every play."
It wasn't that I forbade myself from visualizing failure -- at some level, I was still pretty sure of failure -- but rather, I forbade myself to fail for lack of trying. The only thing worse than going 4-18 would have been to go 4-18 and know that I might have done better if only I had managed my discouragement and sense of self-defeat.
At this point I felt the beginning of something that I was very reluctant to put into words, lest it evaporate. I began to imagine that this feeling might grow, if I casually looked the other way, and that it might peak on Friday night, and with care, with luck, it could persist the whole weekend. And I began to pin my hopes on husbanding this feeling, for I suspected it might be the only thing that had the power to subsume my negativity, get me past losses -- even get me past wins, which can be just as distracting -- and allow me to avoid that pit of despair that would have meant the end of trying.
My secret weapon: DOGGED FURY.
How dare this game, this chancy mess of tiles, be so fickle? So I made Scrabble itself my demon, to drown out all those inner ghosts and doubts. Give me drek? Bring it on! I am not the enemy -- the enemy is luck, and my opponent, the nature of the game, and discouragement itself. The enemy is not my failings, but the specific set of problems comprising each turn of each game -- a set of problems that I may not be able to solve optimally, but I sure as hell know enough to attack optimally.
Next: Albany, The Early Bird