Wednesday, February 24, 2016
How do you deal with deadlines?
Deadlines. We've all had them. When is that paper due? When is that project due? When is that bill due?
Some people hate the stress of a deadline, and others embrace them. For me, I love having a deadline. I love knowing there is an end date, a goal for which to strive.
When I went through a writing drought a few years ago, the thing that tripped me up the most was not having a deadline, not having a reason to write. Before I was published, the reason to write was to get published. While I had contracts, the goal was to meet (and for me to beat) my deadlines. But when those contracts dried up, suddenly, I had no focus, no goal, no pressure to write.
And I floundered a bit. I didn't know what to work on, what to try. So I when my agent asked what she could do to help, I said, "Give me a deadline."
Voila! A goal to aim for. It helped me tremendously. (And I turned in the ms ahead of time. :) )
I have a few strategies for dealing with a deadline:
1. Plan ahead, but not too tightly.
When I have a deadline on the calendar, I estimate approximately how many words per day I need to write in order to finish a first draft and have time to edit. But then I don't follow it too strictly. Because life happens. I know there will be days when I far exceed that word count, but I also know there will be days when I don't write at all.
2. Think about my story when I'm not writing. Keep the story fresh and in the forefront.
While I'm driving somewhere, while I have downtime waiting for an appointment, while I'm quilting. Keeping the story fresh in my mind means when I do sit down to write, I know what I want to say.
3. Keep evaluating and updating the plan.
Be flexible, but be responsible, too. I know some writers who, the week before their deadline, write ten thousand words a day, shut out the world, and just make it under the deadline before the clock strikes 12. I know that under those circumstances, I would hate that pressure, and that I wouldn't produce my best work. I know that I like to finish a first draft and edit it to the best of my ability before I turn it in. I adjust the plan and what I need to do as I move through the calendar.
4. Keep people informed of my progress.
This is mostly my family, but also includes my agent. When my family knows a deadline is approaching, or if I tell them I need to lay down some serious word-count, they pitch in to help and they keep distractions to a minimum. They encourage and ask how I'm doing.
Keeping my agent in the loop means if there is ever a need to communicate with an editor about a project, she has up-to-date information to pass along.
So, how do you deal with deadlines? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Do you find them helpful or a distraction?
Earl Grey Aficionado
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