Talk to any successful author on their success and a number of them will tell you about the power of deadlines. And it’s true – anyone who’s been to school knows this. How many of us have written papers the night before they were due?
Beyond that, most jobs come with deadlines, from office work to construction jobs. Deadlines give us motivation to get the job done.
However, in the above scenarios, something is always at stake. If you don’t get your paper written on time, you could fail the class; if you don’t get your office work done, you could lose your job; and if you don’t get a construction job completed on time, you’re inconvenienced by being paid the same amount of money for a job that took a lot longer than anticipated. It pays to abide by these deadlines – literally.
But when you’re a writer who hasn’t yet been published, who has a day job and other responsibilities, it’s easy to let those deadlines go. If you don’t meet a deadline, so what? You’re only inconveniencing yourself, and there are no consequences. No lost job, no lost money, no failing grade. Just wasted time, and you have plenty of that to spare.
At the end of January, I set a deadline of February 29 for my current project’s draft. I was at 60,000 words and I wanted to write about another 40,000. Not a difficult goal, but it still required discipline and a hard work ethic.
Over a month later, my word count sits right around 67k. I wrote only 7,000 words in a month, and that, to me, is a failure. Especially knowing that I may go the self-publishing route, which rewards the more prolific writer. If I can’t do the legwork to get this done while also having a job and responsibilities, how am I going to promote and sell a book myself while also writing another one?
It’s been a while since I posted on here. I’m not a fan of those “I haven’t been keeping up on the blog and I’m going to try to do better” posts and honestly, that’s not what I’m here to do. The reason I haven’t been posting is because I want to be honest about what I post. When I write opinions, ideas, advice, or whatever about writing, I want to be able to show that I can walk the talk. If I can’t keep up a regimen of writing five to seven days a week, who am I to recommend others should do the same?
I still have a pretty big draft labeled “Writing Lessons from 2015” which I planned to break up into multiple posts. I thought (and still think) it had some pretty helpful ideas. They were all hard-won lessons from probably my best year of writing to date.
But I didn’t stick to one of the most important lessons: Never stop writing.
It sucks to have to sit down and start writing. It feels like work. It is work, if you’re pursuing a career. But in my experience, no matter how much it sucks to sit down at first, after about five minutes of writing – using a timer – I actually want to keep going. I may look at my word count and see I’ve only written 900 words and groan because I need to get so much more done, and then the next check I’ll be over 3,000 having not felt the time go by because I was in the zone. You’ve heard of a runner’s high, right? This is the writer’s version of that.
I write with a notebook open next to me. I use this for ideas of things to add in earlier to make later scenes more impactful, or to remind myself of something I just wrote that I can build off of later. More often, this notebook is for notes that I’ll need when I edit.
But the point is, the more I write, the more ideas I end up with. Which is exciting. It makes me want to write more, at least at the moment… until the next day when I have to make myself sit down to start writing again. Then the struggle begins anew.
It isn’t enough to be held accountable – which is why I don’t tell people about my endeavors until I’ve achieved them. Some will say that telling someone about your deadline can help you reach your goals by way of guilt or something. But for reasons I can’t explain, the pressure actually has the opposite effect on me.
There wasn’t much point to this post, I know. This is mostly for me and other writers like me. Hopefully it reaches other writers in my very same position and motivates both you and me to put ass to chair and fingers to keys.