Writing–Deadlines: Breaking Them

I don’t like to break deadlines, but I will. In some cases, it’s extenuating circumstances. I’m sick or I have to take my roommate to the emergency room or I suddenly find myself in high demand because if people didn’t respect my writing career as my only job, they sure as hell don’t respect it as my second one.

And then sometimes, it’s just me.

It doesn’t happen much with the first drafts. With first drafts I can just throw crap on the page knowing that I can fix it during revisions.

It happens during revisions more than I’d like. Part of that is because I’d like it to never happen. The other part of that is because sometimes I just don’t like a story. It’s hard to motivate myself if there’s no love. I’m more likely to give up on it all together than try to push myself through it. I don’t intend to write stories that I hate, but sometimes it’s during the revision process that I realize that the original idea wasn’t so great and I’m not sure I want to even bother with it. The deadline comes and I’m not too heartbroken about missing it. It’s a good excuse to put the story away until one day, maybe, I can find my heart for it again.

Sometimes I’m just sick of a story. I’ve seen it so much, put it through so many revisions, that the idea of opening it up one more time makes me want to slam my head in a door. “At 3:36” is one of those stories for me. I’ve revised it and revised it to the point that if I put it on my to do list (it’s up for review in March) that I cringe and put it off until the last because I don’t want to deal with it. I’ve broken a deadline or two for that story.

And then there are stories that I’m just plain stuck on. I have no idea what needs to be done to it to improve it, or I do know what needs to be done, but I just don’t know how to do it. Those are the stories that I sit and stare at and go to bed with and watch helplessly as the deadline creeps up, then looms, then passes me by, grinning as it goes.

Those are the worst. Those are the ones that make me question myself as a writer, question my talent and my dedication.

And then I make my next deadline by three days and I’m really pleased with the result and it totally erases the bitter taste in my mouth.

Thankfully, I make more deadlines than I miss so this sort of internal, self-inflicted drama is minimal. Best to save it for the stories.

Writing–Deadlines: Making Them

I like deadlines. Deadlines keep me motivated and they keep me honest. I don’t like missing them. Self-imposed or someone else’s, they do me good.

I don’t like missing deadlines. Even if they’re important to no one else but me, I don’t like to miss them. I don’t like to make that adjustment on my day planner. If I write it down, it’s set in stone.

I’m also a dedicated procrastinator. I’m excellent at putting off, which conflicts with my need to meet deadlines.

I’ve gotten better at managing my time and making myself get started. With my self-imposed deadlines, I’ve recognized that I’m better off giving myself a little more time than I think I’ll need. If I set a specific goal in mind for a given day, that helps, too. It’s like a mini-deadline. I need to have this done before I go to sleep. A few of those and the overall deadline is met without much effort.

There are times when this doesn’t work out, of course. For whatever reason, the motivation isn’t there. It’s too much effort to open the file, let alone read the words on the screen. I can’t think of how to phrase what I want to say or change what needs to be changed. The “I don’t feel like it” refrain echoes through my brain.

Which means that when the deadline is looming, the fire gets lit under my butt. The focus might not always be there, but the dedication is and I do whatever it takes to get the job done. Sometimes this means struggling late into the night. Other times, it means I find an hour’s worth of focus, get the job done, and feel like a complete moron for not just doing it sooner so I could have had the whole thing accomplished and off of my plate sooner.

I try to seize the real productive moments whenever I have them. There are sometimes when I’m just in a demolishing mood and I try to get as much done as possible. For example, this past weekend I was hitting all cylinders and as such, I knocked out six blog posts in two days. It was nice to be done with them all with hours to spare before bedtime.

Of course, this came after I spent all week struggling to make revisions on “Phobias Are How Rumors Get Started”, having major trouble getting started, only to find that what I really needed to do took me about half an hour.

But I met my deadline.

“Phobias Are How Rumors Get Started” is now posted. It’ll be up for the next six weeks. Enjoy.