Deadlines: Lifelines for Writers

If you sit around waiting for inspiration, it may never come.

I met an author—let’s call him “Larry”—at a conference last year whose first novel, part one of a trilogy, was soon to come out. When I asked how the second was coming along, he said he didn’t feel much urgency since his deadline lay a year out. Once his publisher set that deadline, his work slowed down—in fact, it stopped.

Perhaps Larry, like many of us, works well under pressure. He may complete the manuscript in two or three months and do a fine job. I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so, however, for several reasons. First, taking too much time off from writing can lead to creative atrophy. Once we restart, it may take a while to warm back up to our usual groove. Second, all of those months off are months that could contribute to sharpened writing skills. And third, if Larry only takes a few months to complete one novel, why not finish the next two in the series sooner? The more quality work we complete, the better.

I’m not sure which contributes more to my adoration of deadlines—my work as a journalist or the on-time-is-late gene I inherited from my dad. In either case, I believe deadlines can serve as a lifeline for most writers. Here’s why:

1) Sitting around waiting for our muse to appear is impractical. Sure, being struck with wicked inspiration is awesome. But complacency can block inspiration, in my opinion. When I worked as an actress, I used slow months to create film projects of my own. When times were slow at a magazine I worked for, I wrote additional articles and submitted my work to other publications. And you know what? The work inspired me. It still does. The more routinely we sit down and write, the more inspiring we’ll find the act of doing so. Deadlines, whether set by us or others, helps keep us focused. We have little choice but to work.

2) The Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, the more time we have to complete a project, the longer it will take us to complete it. If Larry set his own deadline of six months rather than twelve and took it seriously, he’d probably meet it. The same goes for all of us.

3) Honing the practice of deadline-keeping promotes professionalism. I wouldn’t be surprised if the interest some agents expressed in representing me stemmed from the skill set journalism requires. One even said, “Ah, so you’re good with deadlines.” (Are you kidding? We’re like BFFS. ;)) Fortunately, you don’t need to work with editors, agents or publishers to get your deadline skills in order.

Tips for Setting Your Own Deadlines and Making them Work

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.” — Les Brown

Choose realistic dates. If our deadlines are too far off, we may make like Larry and feel no sense of urgency. They can then sneak up us, causing crazy stress, weakened self confidence or total surrender. (“I give up!”) If our deadlines are too short, we run the risk of little things getting in the way or overwhelming ourselves, which again may inspire us to give up. Deadlines should trigger anticipation and enthusiasm, not panic.

Allow for some wiggle room. I generally have about a week to finish feature articles. I give myself a deadline of two to three days. This way, I have plenty of time for unexpected delays and to review my work with fresh eyes before submitting it. And my editors know that I work fast, so if a short turn around piece arises, I’m a realistic candidate. If you feel confident that you can complete a project in six weeks, take seven or eight. Or set a rough draft deadline of six weeks and a final deadlines of seven.

Set incremental deadlines. If your goal is finishing a novel in one year, setting weekly or monthly goals of a certain amount of work time, pages, words or “chunk” can be helpful. I personally don’t dig goals of specific words or pages because quality matters more to me than quantity. But you should do what works best for you.

Create accountability. The more often you set and meet deadlines, the more likely you’ll be to take them seriously, simply by thinking or stating them. If you need more accountability, try joining or starting a critique or writers group. (FYI, choose critique groups with caution. Taking feedback from a bunch of writers can help or hinder our work. What you want is accountability, not a bunch of contradicting opinions.) Or use the buddy system with a fellow reader or writer. Each week or month, share or exchange x-number of pages, chapters or whatever quality work you’ve churned out.

Reward yourself, but don’t punish. Once you meet a deadline, reward yourself with a day off, new book or whatever else strikes your fancy. If your deadline draws near and you’re way behind, set a new one—preferably not too far off. The beauty of setting our own deadlines is that we can remain flexible. In many cases, editors, agents and publishers will allow extra time if you explain in advance that a few more days or weeks would allow greater work quality. Quality often trumps meeting specific dates.

So, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts. What do you like or dislike about deadlines? Any points to add? Experiences to share? Challenges we can help you manage? Share, share away…

Leave a comment

75 Comments

  1. Parkinson’s Law is definitely true for me. Although my work is not nearly as important as writing a novel… I’ve noticed my own perchance for worry and time-sucking behaviors when it comes to lesson planning and blog posting lately. If I have a week to worry about it, I WILL! But if I set specific times for working hard, I can fit all my planning/writing into that time (and allow myself to relax the rest of the week). It took me a few weeks of trial and error before I realized I was just giving myself more of a headache by thinking about it all the time, but have since settled into a routine… thank goodness!

    Reply
    • Such a great point on R&R, Jana. Having deadlines in place definitely allows it!

      I read a study recently that showed that setting aside fifteen minutes per day to worry, on purpose—leads to overall better mental and physical health. Crazy, right? (Or maybe not… ;))

      Reply
  2. I love deadlines and when I worked as an artist or even with my own projects, it was imperative. Since I began writing last spring, I have found it a blast and can’t stop. I hope this passion continues…now I need a deadline to clean my house!

    Reply
    • Deadline practices really are fun once we get the hang of it. They make me giddy and hyper! (GiddIER and more hyper, rather ;)) House cleaning, hmm… Mine, too, tends to lack passion. Priorities, right?? Thanks for your great insight, Susie.

      Reply
  3. Marc Schuster

     /  February 21, 2012

    Great advice — especially your point about setting deadlines for ourselves even when the “real” deadlines are much further out! Also, I must have the on-time-is-late gene, too!

    Reply
  4. Great article August. I love all the tips and tricks you give on setting our own deadlines. I am a heavy procrastinator because I seem to work better under the gun but the stress isn’t worth it. Perhaps setting my own deadlines sooner will help me balance things out better. FAHHHBULOUS tips and tricks….squeee!!

    Reply
    • I hear you, Natalie. Pressure can be a super positive thing. Knowing we can create it for ourselves, without feeling overrun by it, can be empowering and effective—really bring our writing careers to the next level. Best of luck! 🙂

      Reply
  5. I have this love/hate relationship with deadlines. I need deadlines because otherwise things tend not to get done. I’m a natural procrastinator. Especially if it’s a project that’s not particularly exciting or will be difficult to do. However, I thrive on pressure. I have better ideas, when I’m facing a deadline. Ideally, I’m given a first draft deadline – that way I can still get the work under pressure inspiration but have time afterward to really hone and polish it. But that said, when it’s work for someone else I try not to procrastinate too much.

    Reply
  6. Once again, thanks for sharing advice that tends to run against our innate tendencies. Let’s face it, writing is a challenge. Until we truly grasp that we will make excuses and dance around the inevitable.

    Great advice!

    Reply
  7. Deadlines freak me out, but when I sit down everyday and get my work done, then they don’t seem so bad. It’s all about maintaining a schedule for me and it needs to be flexible.

    This great advice can be followed for blogging as well – setting little deadlines will keep the posts in order and flowing. At least, that’s what I found. When I just ‘pantsed’ my posts, I would stress and freak out, but when I set a schedule similar to my writing one, it suddenly became easy peasy and I enjoy it WAY more now.

    Well, thanks for the awesome tips, now I’m off to meet my editing goal for today! 😉

    Reply
  8. Love! I hated deadlines in college, for the same reasons you’re concerned for Larry. I’d see all that time ahead to finish those big projects and shrug it off, waiting until the last minute. Not a clever approach. Now, deadlines make me happy. They give me a sense of control, because I can plan and see what I need to do in order to make what needs done happen.

    I also dig what you said about critique groups. Too many contradicting opinions can completely cut our legs out from under us. Better to get the opinions of a couple folks we really trust, and rest in that. Nobody’s writing will be everybody’s cuppa.

    Reply
    • Yay! I’m so glad deadlines make you happy now, Myn. They really can become our cuppa. (Way too cute a word to not repeat.)

      If we take our writing seriously, we’ve got to embrace the role of CEO. Successful business set deadlines, and lots of them, so to inspire quality work and productivity. Keep it up, lady!

      Reply
  9. miq

     /  February 21, 2012

    Hmmm…maybe making a deadline would help me. Currently I’m thinking it’d be nice to finish writing this thing in five or ten years…maybe I’m giving myself too much time.

    Reply
  10. Ooh, love that quote from Les Brown August!

    Are deadlines related to goals? Like could they be cousins or something? LOL!

    You know how I love goals! Not. But hey, I’m working on that in ROW80. It’s getting better and I’m starting to settle into a schedule, I think. My problem is, I tend to overshoot and bite off more than I can chew, then get frustrated. I get all excited and then realize I wasn’t very realistic. You’d think I’d know better by now. Errr.

    I have always worked for myself, so I do know how to get things done. But I thank you for the suggestions. They all make so much sense. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ha—I bet you’re right! You can have a goal, without a deadline, but a deadline can’t quite exist without goals. So maybe goals are the mommas/poppas!

      I’ve overloaded my plate plenty of times, too. Sounds like you’re making progress, which is the important thing. We work-for-ourselvers are nearly forced learn certain habits that are more or less optional for others. (Hmm… Not unlike healthy eating habits. ;)) Keep up the great work, Karen!

      Reply
  11. Debra Eve

     /  February 21, 2012

    I think setting incremental deadlines is where I have problems. I see the forest and not the trees. Great post, August!

    Reply
  12. Like so many others, I say that I work best under pressure. But that’s not entirely accurate. It’s kind of like owning a boat with a tiny leak. Ignore the leak long enough and you’re going to find yourself in the middle of the lake frantically bailing a flood of water with a rusty little can, hoping you can make it back to shore before the boat sinks.

    That’s what it feels like to me when I put things off until the last minute. And of course I’m going to put every ounce of effort into bailing myself out of the situation I got into because I procrastinated too long. I don’t work best under pressure…I PANIC under pressure, and panic forces me to get very efficient in a really big hurry.

    So I like what you’ve said about deadlines here (and bookmarked the article!). I’ve been trying to set smaller, more regular deadlines for several weeks now, and it is much nicer to meet those smaller goals on time than to try to get it ALL done at the last minute. Nowhere near as stressful. Hopefully it will become second nature to me in the next few months.

    Thanks for the reminder, August! 🙂

    Reply
    • Such honest insight, Kristy. Knowing ourselves and how we work best, or poorest ;), is super important. Your practice of meeting smaller goals gradually sounds like a great pathway—especially since you’re already reaping benefits. I’m sure it’ll get easier in time. Keep it up! 🙂

      Reply
  13. I’ll admit I’m one who works better under pressure, that’s why I’m always setting goals, targets to be met, self imposed deadlines, etc. I think I’ll bookmark this post to refer back to as necessary. Thanks August.

    Reply
  14. I launched a Mon.-Fri. photoblog on Nov. 1, 2010 (where I take one of my photos and combine it with a humorous title and caption).

    I’ve made an unwavering commitment to the blog and allow myself no excuses. I have never missed a weekday post. This discipline has rewarded me many times over because of the comments of (and resulting friendships with) other bloggers. I’m glad I made it a weekday post, because I have the weekends to take photos and pre-load all of my posts for the coming week.

    Your post today is about writing deadlines in general (not specifically blogging), but I think a daily blog would have killed either me or the blog. Every freelance writer must find a workable frequency of self-imposed deadlines.

    John Robinson: http://TheDailyGraff.com

    Reply
    • Well said, John. That unwavering commitment and frequency that works for each of us personally, whether for blogging or other work, seems key for success. So do those days off you mentioned. I’ll definitely take a peak at your blog. Best of luck with it!

      Reply
  15. Deadlines–I need them! Of course, I’m the one setting them right now, so lately that’s been a problem. I think it’s so true about work expanding to fill the time. I really need to add more deadlines to my plan–not just one far off one.

    Reply
    • Hey Coleen! Setting our own certainly gives a bit too much leeway in some cases. 😉 My agent lets me choose whether I want deadlines and I always say “YES!” Having someone or thing to hold us accountable helps tremendously.

      Reply
  16. I just had my daughter read this. She is crying about a paper that is due tomorrow. She knew about it for a week and did no work. As she is in college, with a 4.0, we trust her.
    Her behavior today is typical and she will get the paper done but it is frustrating to deal with. I hope that he takes your pointers to heart the next time.

    William.

    Reply
    • Touched that you shared the post, William. I historically worked a lot like your daughter does now, particularly in high school. (But no need to tell her that! ;)) You bring up a great point. The stress and anxiety that comes from panicking at the last minute affects more then ourselves.

      Reply
  17. I have learned the hard way that the incremental deadlines work the best for me. And rewarding myself for meeting them even with something small is another fabulous thing to do 🙂

    Reply
  18. Deadline are so important. Without them, I wouldn’t get anything done. Even when I don’t feel like writing, a deadline looming over me will force me to just get down to business (and most times, creativity will come along for the ride).

    Reply
  19. Speaking personally, I work best when I don’t have a deadline. That said, given that I’m in a position right now that I set my own deadlines and I tend to set them far too harshly, that may just be my fault! I completely agree with you that taking time off from creativity makes it hard to get started again. Now, to set myself some more realistic targets…

    Reply
    • Finding a rhythm that works for us is what matters. Sounds like giving yourself some wiggle room might help. (Funny how we can be our harshest critics AND toughest bosses… ;))

      I’ve found that ballpark deadlines can work well, such “finish March 1st, give or take a few days…” or blogging twice a week, whichever days I choose. Good luck with those new targets!

      Reply
  20. Great tips for making deadlines work! As a teacher, I was always very good at helping students plan for deadlines. As a writer giving myself advice, not so much!

    Reply
  21. mgmillerbooks

     /  February 21, 2012

    I set deadlines for the business end of writing (for which we share that same gene), but so far I haven’t set one on the writing itself. I’ve written 21 novels to date (I didn’t say they were all marketable, though–so I’m a boy scout when it comes to being prepared in that regard. Still, every day, though, I think, “Put yo a$$ in that chair”, because I want to keep that cushion between needing to produce a new work and having one ready to go. So yeah, overall I guess I dig on deadlines. Of course, it’s not the same as, say, those college all-nighters. Yeesh. How did I live past 21?

    Reply
    • ROFL! I sometimes wonder the same. Um, about me, not you. 😉 Glad you’re keeping that behind where it belongs. That’s definitely an “unofficial” deadline I stick to.

      Reply
  22. I totally agree with you. Deadlines are a must for me. Without them I find myself being unproductive. And if they are too far in the future I procrastinate getting work done that I could easily finish in a third of the time. Unfortunately, while with somethings I am great at putting self-imposed shorter deadlines infront of the real ones, I am still not great at doing it universally. Right now my biggest problem is how all of my deadlines are not clear with my writing as compared to my full time job. My job has some big but far in the future deadlines while my writing has only my personal deadlines that are not nearly as set in stone as I would like.

    So needless to say this is a great post for me to read and at an excellent time. Thank you for the proverbial fire under the seat that I needed.

    Reply
    • So glad this hit you at an ideal time. Personal deadlines can be harder to cement into your calendars and brains compared to other professional deadlines. If we consider ourselves professional writers, though, which I did before I made a dime at it, I think it’s far easier.

      Keep that fire going! And us posted on your progress.

      Reply
  23. Structure does make for increased creative activity, doesn’t it?
    Great post, August!

    Reply
  24. Love this advice! I tend to be the kind the works up until the very last minute if I have a deadline. I inherited the “thrill-of-barely-making-the-appointment” gene. I work really well under pressure but I’m learning to start projects sooner because I’ve had some close calls that were a little too close for comfort. 🙂

    Reply
  25. Kourtney Heintz

     /  February 21, 2012

    August, brilliant and insightful!

    My mom taught me the on-time-is-late rule. I always want to beat a deadline.

    And I can’t procrastinate. I expect things to go wrong so I build in time for that too.

    I was in management consulting for several years where we allocated our workday down to 15 minute increments. That was a terrific way to learn time management.

    I think the importance of setting realistic deadlines is so important. Writers need to self manage. I know is takes me 8 weeks to do a serious manuscript revision. I might be able to do it in 6 if I cut back blogging and other things, but 8 is reasonable.

    To be a good manager, I monitor my progress and then reset expectations as needed. Right now I’ve revised 160 pages in 3 weeks. But that is working at top speed because I have a deadline editors set for submissions at a conference. 🙂

    Reply
    • That reset is so important, right? We all deserve that permission, especially those of us who feel unable to procrastinate. LOL (So with you there, for tasks I’m passionate about…) You are rocking it with the conferences. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

      Reply
      • Kourtney Heintz

         /  February 22, 2012

        I think it’s what people miss in project management. You have to check in and re-evaluate deadlines. Constantly managing yours and others expectations. If you can tell someone three weeks ahead that something will be a couple days late, it’s way better than an hour before it’s due.

        This is for the SCBWI conference I attended. Several editors allowed up to submit to them after the conference if we do it w/in 60 days of the workshop we attended with them. So I’ve got a ticking clock. But I will get it done.

        It’s the same manuscript I’m revising at an agent’s request so I’m kinda glad they imposed a deadline too.

  26. I love being ready way in advance. Something I haven’t had the luxury of for a while now. But I’m getting my balance and I may be getting there. I believe in building in that wiggle room. I whole heartily agree that quality comes before quantity, especially when it comes to our novels. I wouldn’t have taken that time off as “Larry” did, but would have dug my teeth right into the next one. I don’t like to let the time and characters slip away.

    Reply
  27. Hi August. That’s good advice. Sometimes i hate blogging because it takes my time away from what I want to write, but more often it’s the other way around, and writing a blog post about anything helps my writing and thinking improve (it’s got a long way to go, mind you). If I sat and waited for inspiration I’d find myself doing something completely different and never thinking about my wip. That said, I think regular breaks can help keep up motivation and interest.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Hey Nigel! I remember thinking that blogging was a time-wasting chore at one point. Boy was I wrong. Like you, I’ve found that it helps my writing and provides a bunch of other benefits (another episode entirely ;)). And I’ve learned in hard and happy ways how important those breaks are.

      Reply
  28. Kara Flathouse

     /  February 21, 2012

    I work much better with deadlines, my problem is giving myself deadlines! I seem to need someone else to do it for it to work:) But, I’m taking note of your tips and going to try.

    Reply
  29. I struggle with deadlines, even though I like to be on time. If someone else gives me a deadline, I meet it. But if I give myself a deadline, I let everything else interfere with it. It’s something I’m working on right now to correct. Practice makes perfect, right? 🙂

    Reply
  30. BoJo Photo

     /  February 21, 2012

    I try to read something every day about business, oil painting, drawing, photography or woodworking for inspiration.

    Time off from a creative activity can surely result in dulled skills but sometimes I think it can lead to a greater concentrated effort. Winter months bring a slow down to my photography but when warm weather rolls around, I’ve made plans for improving my photography and set about taking better photos snap by snap.

    I personally hate deadlines. If someone asks me to build a frame from scratch, I will tell him or her two months, which could be true, if I am very busy. Usually I have them done in less than two weeks and four at the most. Customers love it too when they are surprised with an early phone call. Might be my rebel side. 🙂 I value customer service so highly that I’m constantly striving to go above and beyond customer expectations so I don’t worry with setting completion dates. I’ve seen a lot of companies set short goals to their detriment. People hate for something they expect done in two weeks to go four or more weeks.

    I have been doing contract work for a company that sets short dates for completion of jobs and it is scary how many times they end up rushing at the end only to have to redo projects time after time, which wastes a lot of money.

    I like to keep paintings that I do for people for a time and look at them as you say with fresh eyes for if I’m comfortable with a painting the customer will be more likely to enjoy the painting.

    I am not totally against planning as I plan my days or I lay out what needs done in my daily planner. Too much planning though creates berms to my creative flow.
    I have been working on my anti-planning ways! 🙂

    Great article! You are one amazing writer!!!

    Reply
    • Sounds like you have a system that works wonderfully for you—anti-planning rebel that you are. 😉

      I definitely relate to hating planning and such, and fall more on the pantzer (seat-of-the-pants) than plotter side when it comes to writing. I’ve come to adore deadlines for lots of reasons, particularly the added pressure and momentum they provide. But if I were purchasing artwork, I’d much prefer someone who loves what they do and puts their whole heart into it than someone pushing to meet a due date.

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your warm words—thanks!!

      Reply
  31. Hi August! I personally love externally imposed deadlines, but the ones I set for myself I often ignore entirely. I am working on a technique where I tell myself I’ll just do whatever it is ( right now, taxes! Ick!) for 15 minutes. Alot can be accomplished in just 15 minutes, I’ve found. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Hey Kecia, What a fabulous practice. Mini time increments definitely add up. And the sense of accomplishment following those time slots is pretty nifty, hey? 😉 I hope the 15 minute technique works its way into those writing deadlines for you, too. Best of luck!

      Reply
  32. asraidevin

     /  February 21, 2012

    Urg I’m procrastinating on Twitter and reading blogs. Okay back to work for me I guess, this was my sign from the universe. Thanks for being the messenger.

    Reply
  33. Yes, yes and yes. But I have to admit, I’ve struggled to meet my personal deadlines for the last 6 weeks. I’ve done very little that’s productive writing and i need to fix that.

    Reply
  34. I learned to love deadlines back when I was doing my master’s. The requirements were more intensive than anything I’d experienced before, so I set my own deadline well ahead of the due date, and I broke it down the way you said into pieces (research done by this time, outline by this time, etc.) I figured out after the first semester that I was enjoying myself while everyone else was running around stressed at the last minute. I don’t like being rushed or stressed 🙂 That carried over when I started freelancing. I try to turn in any assignment ahead of when it’s due. For me, hitting a deadline is a requirement of being a professional. And i know me. I do work better with a deadline than without.

    Reply
  35. OMg, August, WordPress had me unfollow you, so I missed out on your last three posts, sorry!!

    I so agree with you on No.2. I like to set (slightly unrealistic) deadlines because it makes work harder and faster. I KNOW for a fact that, if I give myself too much time, I’m never going to do it until the last minute.

    I admire your discipline and work ethic. We should all strive to be more like you! 🙂

    Reply
  36. Great tips! I typically thrive under deadlines, but I’m working under a tight one right now and I’ve found it’s added more stress than motivation. You can’t wait around for your muse, but you can’t beat it into submission and force it to perform either. So I think setting realistic timelines is important. Next go round, I’ll probably ask my publisher to give me more time for each book. (I’m on a write/revise a 90k novel in six months schedule right now.)

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Roni. I have to agree with you. Overly tight deadlines are about as comfy as too-tight jeans.

      Your schedule sounds intense! I’ve heard from other authors that the routine shorter deadlines gradually come easier. In either case, I’m eager to read more of your work. (I actually have a funny story about CRASH involving a highly embarrass-able male… 😉 May post it soon.)

      Reply
  37. HA! I have that ‘on time is late’ gene. I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. Love, in that if someone is waiting on me to do my part I rock the deadlines and am a lot like you were saying about getting it done with time to spare for review, etc. Hate, in that I’m not so hot with setting and meeting my own deadlines.

    Brilliant post! I’m definitely going to try your tips 🙂

    Reply
  38. I just want to congratulate you on giving me the inspiration I needed to get editing my novel that I wrote during NaNoWriMo.
    I’ll be using all of these – incremental and realistic deadlines with a little wriggle room!
    Parkinson’s law is very true. I have an undergraduate dissertation that’s due in May of next year, and I’m currently lacking any motivation whatsoever to do anything because it’s just so far away (that and the fact that I’m planning on delaying my return to university by a year which makes it 2 years and 3 months until it’s due…).

    One of the best times I’ve written really well was about 10 days into NaNoWriMo and until about 3 days before I finished. At the start I was still getting into the groove, and at the end I was just feeling stressed and overworked because I wasn’t sure I could make it. Sometimes unrealistic deadlines can be great just to get you started, but avoiding burnout (Kristy’s bailing out the boat with a rusty tin can example!) can be hard.

    Reply
    • That’s the best news of the day, Rosemary. I believe it’s you who deserves the kudos, though I’m thrilled if I helped in any way. 🙂

      Sounds like your plate is mighty full… Sometimes we have to not only check in with ourselves and reset deadlines, but accept the fact that we won’t always (and need not) run by other people’s or program’s clocks.

      Best of luck with all. Please keep me posted!

      Reply
  39. My publishers set the deadlines for my novels, and I like it. My first book, before I ever had a contract, I had “all the time in the world” to finish/write it. And I did write it/work on it, but there was no “purpose” to it – no “end date” – but I “finished it” and started another. But with deadlines, and knowing the books have a date to turn in to my editor, and a tentative publishing date, and a date for this and that, well, it gives me some structure in a job that can have little structure (if I’m not careful). It’s easy to be distracted, but knowing I have that deadline kicks me arse into gear. And I know how fast things come about – a year down the road seems forever but it’s not – believe me, I learned that with my second book . . .lawd.

    Reply
  40. I envy you your on-time-is-late gene! 🙂

    I’m tempted to say I, too, work best under pressure, but when I think about it some more I realise it’s not really true. I tend to keep tasks off till shortly before the deadline, and then when I think the task is complete I realise I left something out that I feel I should really add, and so on and so forth. It’s a poor habit that I’ve got to break.

    Parkinson’s Law makes so much sense. I’ll keep the tips you’ve given in mind, as I’m planning on honing my writing skills. I called up a newspaper editor yesterday (more like he called me about something else and I took the opportunity) to ask for a writing job. He would like to look at how and what I write. I haven’t been very serious with my writing lately, I need some more focusing, I guess. You write so well, I’m looking forward to reading more of you and learning from you.

    Kat.

    Reply
  41. August, great post. It’s interesting. I like deadlines and meet them usually with no problem. On the other hand, I also procrastinate on some things. So, I’m kind of bi-polar with projects, in a way. I hate to be late as you, but I’m not as careful as I could be in hitting the milestones. Hmm, more to think about, my friend!

    Reply
  42. This post has given me the kick up the backside that I needed. I am a first time writer and have 11 chapters completed and edited. I have a fulltime job and write in the evenings and weekends but sometimes I just kick off my shoes lay on the sofa and chill. But I do want my book to be completed and the only way is to have a deadline. So I now have given myself one.This summer is MY deadline, my book to be completed, edited and the number 1 bestseller in the world. Okay maybe not the number one as a target, but the deadline will be the target I will hit.

    Thanks and a great looking blog as well with some excellent posts.

    Reply
  43. Only when I started using deadlines did my work start improving. If I’m off on the deadline by a week I don’t totally freak out. I only freak out if I get stuck and words don’t come out.

    I like using the reward system though. When I finish a project I take a day and do something or I buy a new pen.

    Great post! Definitely will be following these from now on.

    Reply
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