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Point of View: Facing Down a Deadline

Deadline - Scott

I’m an author. I know that comes with a certain amount of built-in idiosyncrasy:

  • I carry a notebook to jot down ideas “on the fly”
  • The radio has become a font of story ideas for me, and I am are often caught with a thoughtful expression on my face and my tongue between my teeth, contemplating the lyrics
  • I have created a safe writers cave where I can retreat and shut the door on the outside world
  • I may go for days without a shower

I am writer – hear me roar.

But there is one thing that has the power to strike fear in my little writer heart. A looming deadline.

You see, as writers, we like to think of ourselves as free spirits, letting the winds of the words carry us where they may, free of earthly constraint. But all of that flies out the window when we’re faced with a looming deadline.

So what’s a poor writer to do? I have some thoughts.

1) Organization. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made. Or was that sincerity? In any case, this is, hands down, the most important thing you can do to defeat an approaching deadline. It’s simple. So I count the number of writing days I have, divide the work I have to get done by that many days, and stick it on a calendar. There, I should be feeling better already, right? All I have to do is HOLY MOTHER OF GOD – I need to write 15,000 words a day? *faints*

2) Set Up a Punishment/Reward System. Okay, so I’ve figured out that there is no way on this green Earth that I can get this damned project done on time. Now I have to motivate myself to actually do the work. There are a number of ways to do this.

You can get one of those apps that penalizes you for not finishing your writing task on time. Many of my more kinky writer friends prefer this method.

But if that doesn’t do it for you, you could reward yourself with an episode of your favorite TV show – one of my writer friends prefers the new X-Files series as a motivator. But be careful here – X-Files only aired 6 new episodes, so you your project is more than six days long, you may run out of motivation too quickly.

I prefer my old standbys – Oreos and Wild Cherry Pepsi. And for punishment? An episode of Arrested Development. OK, that’s not really a punishment, but you get the idea.

3) Clear the Calendar. I can also free up time to meet my deadline by clearing unnecessary tasks from the calendar.

That dental cleaning? It can wait until July. Who needs teeth anyway? Teeth don’t write.

Grocery shopping? Oh come on. I can easily survive on that box of ramen in the garage for a few more days. Snack tip – it’s delicious dry, and saves you the cooking time.

Paying the bills? Well, I gotta make money to spend money, right?

4) Do the Work. I know, we all wish the writing would just flow out of our fingers like custard from an eclair when you squeeze it tight (and yes, it *is* fun licking the chocolate off your fingers afterward). But the cold, hard reality is that writing isn’t always like that. Hell, it’s not like that most of the time. As writers, we just have to stick our butts in the chair and grind it out sometimes.

But don’t worry. You can always add the magic later.

5) Beg for More Time. If all else fails, I can go to my publisher, get on my hands and knees, and beg for more time. It’s a sad fact of life, but writers are a notoriously unreliable species. Publishers know this, and are used to hearing this kind of request.

Just don’t pull this one too often. It’s a short hop from “happens all the time – not a big deal” to “this is happening all the time – you writers are a dime a dozen.”

Don’t be a dime.

I hope that helps you writer friends of mine, who may be staring down the dreaded deadline as we speak.

So what are some of your tips for beating them?

1 thought on “Point of View: Facing Down a Deadline”

  1. I don’t have that much time a day when I can write so I grab every minute! I wind up with about 250 words a day, but that works toward the deadline.

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