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.