Let me just say this upfront: I don’t like deadlines.
I hate the creepiness of having something looming over my head like a grizzly hand waiting to snatch me and devour me if I don’t finish.
And I don’t like the pressure of having to complete something too quickly. I’m always afraid that if I have to rush, then I won’t have the time to make it as excellent as I’d like it to be.
I also don’t like deadlines because I fear that I might freeze under the pressure, that I won’t be able to think of anything to say, that the words won’t flow, that I’ll be left with a blank page—which is every author’s nightmare.
So often we think deadlines are restrictive. For us creative, working-from-home types who like the freedom of setting our own schedules and plans, deadlines tend to put a crimp in our style.
Yes, the word deadline has become a “dirty” word.
But I’ve learned that all writers who are serious about publication need deadlines of one kind or another. As much as I shudder at the thought of deadlines, I’ve come to realize that they can be very helpful, especially ones we impose upon ourselves.
Now I fully realize every person is wired differently. We operate at our maximum potential under varying circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all way of writing.
Nevertheless, as much as I detest deadlines, I’ve also come to realize how beneficial setting our own deadlines can be:
Self-imposed deadlines help us stay focused.
As writers working from home, (like any person with a home-based business), we face special challenges. And one of those is that we’re our own boss. No one is hovering over making sure we’re clocking in. In fact, if we want to browse the internet for an hour instead of working, no one will dock our paycheck or fire us for fooling around on company time.
It’s especially tempting, when we hit a hard spot while writing our books, to stop, take a break, and tell ourselves that we’ll get back to our writing later. And if we’re in the middle of writing a blog post and get interrupted by one of the kids, it’s all too easy to decide to write the post on another day.
Yes, one of the benefits of working from home IS the flexibility.
But all too often, we let ourselves wander aimlessly, shifting from one thing to the next without any real direction. And our times of writing become hit or miss.
When we establish tangible goals, dates, and time frames within which we work, we can reduce the tendency to flounder, get distracted, or put projects off. Those goals give us something to shoot for.
Even if we fall short, at least we’ve shot at something rather than nothing at all.
Self-imposed deadlines can help increase our productivity.
I’ve found that when I give myself deadlines, I don’t freeze or lose my creativity, but rather my production actually increases.
Before I write the first draft of a book, I decide how much time I think it will take. Since my books are about 100K in length, I divide that amount out over a span of 4 to 5 months and then give myself a weekly word count goal to meet the deadline I'm setting for myself. Then I take my planning a step further and give myself a daily goal so that I can hopefully meet my weekly goal. If something comes up one day that prevents me from meeting the goal, then I try to make it up by the end of the week.
The more regularly we keep our writing muscles working, the more productive we are.
Self-imposed deadlines prepare us for being a professional.
If we begin to establish deadlines before publication, then we’ll be much better prepared for the deadlines that come later, particularly for those who aspire to work with a traditional publisher.
If we want industry professionals to take us seriously, then we need to start taking ourselves seriously first. One way to do that is to approach our self-imposed deadlines the way we would approach deadlines at any other job.
For example, I write my blog posts the week before they go live. I schedule “blog writing time” into two afternoons a week. And I don’t let that particular afternoon go by without writing a post. I approach that time with tenacity, seeing it as something that is part of that day’s routine. It’s not optional and I don’t leave it to chance.
But that’s because I view my blog with the mindset of a professional. I want to post regularly, on time, with the best possible content.
Meeting self-imposed deadlines allows us to present ourselves as professionals.
How do you feel about deadlines? Do they stifle your creativity, give you writer’s block, and zap the joy out of writing? Or, like me, have you learned to find some benefits in establishing personal deadlines?