Efficiency 101: Embrace The Deadline

It has been a lunatic day at the Evil Day Job, so I am just now sitting down to write my post.  But the lunacy has given inspiration for today’s post topic: deadlines.

Now we all have them at our regular jobs out in the Real World.  Finite ends to our projects that we must work toward or…presumably something bad will happen.  In my line of work, we write a lot of grants.  Grants have submission deadlines.  If we miss them, the grants don’t get submitted, don’t get scored, and don’t ever get funded, which in a long and roundabout way means we don’t get paid!  This is bad, obviously.

When it comes to writing (or, for that matter, being self employed doing anything), there are often no deadlines.  Now I’m not talking about already professional authors with contracts coming out their ears that say “This book will be turned in on x date”.  I’m talking about those of us still feeling our way, still writing our opi (this is probably not the plural of opus, but go with it).  When we’re still working other jobs or juggling family or doing whatever else we have to do other than writing, we usually don’t have deadlines.  Because we’re working for ourselves, right?  If it doesn’t get done today or this week, it’ll get done later.

This, my friends, is a recipe for procrastination.  If you have no firm end date in mind, your natural tendency will be to let other stuff interfere and overtake until your book gets pushed back and pushed back and pushed back.  Until a year has passed and you haven’t finished that rough draft.

So what do you do about it?  You give yourself a deadline.  You pluck a date off the calendar and say “I will accomplish this goal [insert measurable goal here] by this date.”

When I begin a new book, the writing program I use (Write Way Pro) allows you to do word count tracking and it makes you enter a finish date and a projected word count.  It then uses that finish date to tell you how much you need to write to reach your goal.  It even makes nice pretty charts that show your progress.  :pets the charts:

Now if you don’t make that deadline, probably nothing horrible is going to happen.  I’m not suggesting you ground yourself or something as punishment for not meeting the goal.  And, in fact, you can always adjust your goals and word counts as life interferes, so that it remains something you can attain (this is the central tenet of ROW80).  But just the simple act of MAKING a deadline raises that thing’s importance in your mental space.  It makes you more likely to work on things, to make it a priority because you are placing your writing (or whatever the thing is) in the realm of the Serious Business that is a Real Job.  And if you hope to hack it in this business (be that writing or something else), that is the first step to true success.

10 thoughts on “Efficiency 101: Embrace The Deadline

  1. I think this is why ROW80 is such a good thing. It makes us set goals. And I use a spreadsheet for word count goals. This time, I also wrote beside two particular dates that they were possible stopping places. I couldn’t really set a deadline because I didn’t know how long the novella was going to be. But I did know that the deadline had to be before ROW80 was over. This challenge has been good for many authors because it makes us think about our writing…it makes it more like a real job. :0)

  2. Opi works for me. And you’re right about deadlines. Interestingly, I’m hopeless at sticking to deadlines set by me, although I seem to be getting better. For some reason, a deadline set by myself is rather more flexible than deadlines set by other people, which I tend to view as extensions of the original Ten Commandments.

  3. I had no idea you used WriteWay Pro. Do you use it to draft? I found their lack of instant spell check very bothersome to the point that I draft in Word and copy/paste each scene to WWP.

    1. I do use it to draft. Then I spellcheck when I’m done. Actually NOT having the instant on there is better for me. All the assorted squiggly lines distract me from moving forward with the scene.

  4. You have a great point. Part of becoming a professional fiction writer is learning to manage your time. If you can’t manage your time, you will never have anything to market or sell.

    Have you ever seen An Officer and a Gentleman? You know that part where Louis Gossett, Jr. tells Richard Gere, “My grandma wants to fly planes!” That’s it in a nutshell. A lot of people want to write books and make a living selling them. The only ones who are going to do it, though, are the ones with some self discipline.

    Keep on rockin’, Kait. You’re an inspiration.

  5. Deadlines and schedules all help push you to finish that book! Say “no” to life getting in the way. LOL

  6. Deadlines are essential. Finally started setting them for writing recently (always have them at work) and it is amazing how that added pressure has helped to inspire creativity and move the projects along.

    Write Way Pro sounds interesting. The program I use has the same deadline setter but without all the charts. Charts would be nice.

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