I almost can't believe it, but I met four deadlines last month! I don't think I've ever done that in my writing life. Maybe the only time I've accomplished so much in such a short space of time is for school/college. But the point is – I did it.
What I learned from that experience is that I can do more than I think I can. Past experience may tell me that I can't – until I make an experience that tells me I can. What I have to be careful of is thinking I can always get this much work done. It would be foolish of me to think I can work 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, for an infinite amount of time. For one thing, there is no time for friends or family, little time for exercise or healthy habits, and almost no time for fun.
However, last month I reminded myself that I can work very intensely and accomplish a lot in short bursts. Life is a marathon, and the writing life is a marathon, but sprints are useful and appropriate. (In my half marathon training, I use short sprints in training.)
John and I are participating in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, a money management course designed to get you out of debt and keep you out forever. In one of the lessons, Dave shows a video of a leopard chasing a gazelle. Even though the leopard can run faster than the gazelle, the gazelle got away! Why? Because the gazelle could make quick leaps out of the leopard's path faster than he could move to intercept. The gazelle only has to keep this up for a short intense period until the leopard gives up and looks for easier prey.
Dave suggests we use this method to get out of debt. A short, intense burst of effort to pay off everything from credit cards to student loans to the balance on your mortgage. I listen to his radio podcast and people call in saying they've just paid off their last debt. Dave asks them how much they paid off and how long it took, then they give their debt free scream. It's very inspiring! People are getting out of debt to the tune of $20,000 to $158,000 (that I've heard) in 12-48 months. John and I will be right in that range, and it's exciting to know it can be done.
That's what I learned last month with my writing deadlines. I focused like I have rarely focused before on one project, then another, then another, then another. And I got them all done, on time. I had hoped that on November 2, I would be able to sleep in, read a little, take a deep breath, and go back to a more relaxed lifestyle. But I still have four more time-sensitive projects to finish. At first, that made me feel super tired just thinking about it. Then I remembered the gazelle intensity speech.
I can't keep up this pace forever, but I can do it for four more weeks. As one friend reminded me on November 2 when I was trying to figure out if I could do all this, I can't “catch up” on everything that didn't get done over the last year. But I can pick the most important things to finish now, and re-schedule my other goals for 2013.
National Novel Writing Month is about gazelle intensity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are finding it can work for their writing life. But it works in every area of life. What do you really need to get done? Not just urgent things, but important things. Piles of paperwork? Haphazard, overcrowded home? Behind in something you could finish if you just really applied yourself for a few weeks?
Think about it and decide what you're going to do about it. In the end, you'll not only have accomplished something wonderful, and maybe done something about those monkeys on your back, but you'll find pleasure in your own personal growth as self-discipline blooms in your life.
I'm nervous about failure, about exhaustion, about missing out on fun things other people are doing, but last month I proved that it can be done! So I'm going to keep it up for another month. See you at the finish line!
[Note: If you want more encouragement and direction in planning your goals for 2013, join me for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Here's to a fabulous and productive new year!]