Thursday, January 19, 2012

On Staying Intense and Gazelle-ish

Last year in school, my whole grade had to take a semester of Financial Literacy—we used the Dave Ramsey course.  I know that probably doesn’t seem very relevant (um, at all), but one expression he used stuck with me and reminds me of writing.

 He always said that when a person is in debt, s/he needs to use “gazelle-like intensity” to get out of that debt.  Now I use the phrase for my writing, when I’m struggling with free time or motivation or deadlines or whatever. 

Sure, we all need breaks.  We all need time for the other part of life, and the people and things who fill it.  But whenever I’m having trouble—especially when the goal is so close, and I can see the end—I have to remember that and push toward the end.

It’s ridiculous, the analogies my brain likes to keep around.

Anyways, here are a few tips for staying intense and gazelle-like:

1)       Think of why you started writing this in the first place.  Even if it’s just as a personal hobby, there’s still a goal involved, isn’t there?
2)      Read what motivates and inspires you.  Maybe it’s an interview of an author who went through a lot on her/his way to publication, struggled with the book itself, or just signed with an agent.  Maybe it’s an amazing book you love to read over and over again to remind yourself what you can someday attain.  Maybe it’s the not-so-amazing book you know you can do better than—and it got published, didn’t it?
3)      Deprive yourself of food, drink, and sunlight until you’re finished.  That way—

Well, scratch the last one.  But still.

What are some of your tips for maintaining the gazelle-like intensity and meeting deadlines, goals, etc.?


Heidi said...

Love Ramsey! I used to try to apply the gazelle intensity to my writing, and I kept wiping out, bombing, giving up, breaking down.

Then one day I realized that when Ramsey says gazelle like intensity, he's only referring to short term goals, specifically getting out of consumer debt and saving 3 to 6 months of expenses. For the rest of his baby steps, especially those that take a lifetime of work, he actually warns people NOT to try to gazelle it because they'll burn themselves out. Instead, it needs to be a slow, steady lifestyle that they can maintain for years.

THAT, I realized, was my problem. Trying to churn out one ms per month wasn't working because I couldn't gazelle that hard and that long! If I want writing to be a lifestyle or a career, I need to treat it like a lifelong process, like paying off the mortgage, not paying off the credit cards. That helped a lot. Now I plod along at 1000 or 2000 words a day, and when I'm done, I tell myself, "Good job!" and take a break.

So cool to see a fellow-Ramseyite! Hope you're doing better than you deserve!

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Heidi -- Good point! And one ms per month? I can't even imagine keeping up the gazelle for so long. I'm glad you found the system/daily goal that works for you.

It's awesome that you're a Ramsey kind of person, too! And haha, the same to you!

Lynda R Young said...

#1 helps me the most. I think about the joy and passion I have for writing and I think about how much I want to achieve my goals. That usually works.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

You've nailed it for me. I'm constantly reminding myself why I write: because I love creating stories and characters.

My blogging friends and the novels I love inspire me, as do those interviews with authors who went through a lot before being published.

Great post!

Lydia Kang said...

I never thought gazelles were that intense. Honey badgers, on the other hand...

Anyway, I digress. I think sitting your self down in the chair and just writing is one of the key. Doing and being there is half the work.

Clarissa Draper said...

I seriously use those three things you suggest. Well, not so much the third, but, I get buckle down and get writing until I'm done and other unimportant things get put aside.

Deana said...

HA! I love the last tip:) Totally doing that one:)

Emily R. King said...

My husband would be so happy if I didn't have gazelle-like intensity. During first drafts or revisions, I'm hardly "here" because my focus is "in" my book. I don't know how to be any other way.

Amie Kaufman said...

This is fantastic! I'm employing a little gazelle like intensity myself right now, but that's such a fantastic way to think of it.

I think your tips are right on as well -- sometimes I remind myself not to waste time online, but that's where I find some of what motivates me and inspires me, and that's so important.

Midnight Writer said...

I just started following your blog and I can't stop reading!
You are hilarious and give great writing tips! :)
Many of your posts have really inspired me!
I hope you can take a moment to check out some
of my writing at my blog:
Thank you so much and keep the posts coming!

--Midnight Writer