“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
Who’s better equipped than a professional race car driver to help us write dangerously? Just recently, I read an interview with Frankie Montecalvo, a racer who’s rapidly gaining a reputation on the international circuit. While most of us think car racing is all about stepping on a gas pedal and roaring down a track, it’s also mentally demanding. Here are a few techniques Frankie uses that we can apply to our own work:
Flexible goal-setting: Each race demands a decision about how aggressive or conservative an approach Frankie will take to accomplish his goals. But once a race is under way, “Things change and you really need to act on what’s coming at you and how you’re moving forward.”
Intense preparation: “If he is racing on a new track, Frankie soaks in everything he can about the circuit — “the bumps, the turns, the layout…everything.” If it’s a track he’s already raced on, he visualizes each lap until he can draw a map of the circuit in his mind.
Total concentration: “I try not to break my concentration; you’re in the zone and your skill set should automatically take over. The more you think about it the more you get out of the zone and can actually mess up (not a good thing on a race track). You want to allow your subconscious mind to utilize your trained skills.”
Self-motivation: “I always strive to be the best at whatever I do. Racing is basically winning or losing and if you’re not on the top step, you haven’t reached the maximum potential of what you can do. There’s no reason you can’t be the best if you push and try your hardest. I think about that last lap for motivation while I’m training at the gym and that pushes me farther.”
Mental focus: Like any sport, race car driving isn’t just physical — it’s a “complete mental chess game,” notes Frankie. Once you’re in prime physical shape, “it really comes down to your mental ability to focus and concentrate.” You have to be able to adapt quickly without losing focus.
Staying calm and relaxed: Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” When racing, you have to stay sharp, both physically and mentally. You have to train so that fatigue, “doesn’t affect your race outcome.” “You cannot let fatigue set in…” That’s why staying calm and relaxed even when your adrenalin is pumping is key.
“You want to allow your subconscious mind to utilize your trained skills” — what great advice for writing. Race on, Frankie — and let’s write on!