Writing to Deadlines

Hello Creative Writer,

The topic I’d like to discuss briefly this week is working to a deadline.

We are all writers here so we can be honest, like artists, we can be temperamental. Writing might slow or stale if inspiration doesn’t come or when other life concerns are more pressing.

But what do you do when you have a deadline? Whether it’s a paper you must right for your Psychology class or a report at work that needs to be turned in by a certain time, some writing can’t wait for the muses to smile.

I abhor deadlines but if I’m honest with myself I need them. Without a deadline I tend to only write occasionally or when a strong idea hits me. There can be weeks or months between episodes like this and that willy-nilly schedule isn’t great for productivity.

I don’t know about you but once there is a date put on a project I go into a determined mind space where not finishing on time is not an option. I will work harder, longer and more passionately to get it done. I will also start now. I’m not much of a procrastinator. I like to see the deadline far in the future with the knowledge that I am already completely done and if I need time to revise or find more information then I have it.

So here are a few tips for writing to a deadline.

  1. Set realistic goals. – You aren’t going to write 20 pages a day for 2 weeks. For large projects try to set a word count or number of pages that is challenging but actually obtainable- You might even want to sit and write for a couple hours and track how far you get- then aim to do that much every time you sit to write for that length of time.
  2. Set aside time. If you don’t make the time then it will slowly get away from you. Every writing session doesn’t have to be a marathon. You can accomplish a lot of anything if you can devote 20 or 30 minutes a day to it.
  3. Plan early. A failure to plan is a plan to fail; as they say. Start with an outline, storyboard or structure map. For 5 page papers a good rule is to have the first page be your introduction, have 3 supporting topics that are each 1 page long and 1 page for the conclusion. You know this.. We all know this. Apply this to your other writing too.
  4. Set benchmark goals. Let’s say you are writing your thesis and you have 8 months to complete it. That is a very far off deadline and those kinds of deadline are tempting to ignore. Set a benchmark for where you’d like to be every few weeks. If you know you want to have all your research completed by the end of next month then set that in stone. Benchmarks keep you more accountable.
  5. Find your why. This can be allied to any goal, and face it- writing to a deadline is setting a goal. So,  if it’s weight loss or learning to play the ukulele you have to have a WHY that drives you. Why do you need to do this? To pass the course? To improve your skills? To preform at a open mic? Because it is something you have dreamed of doing since you were 8 years old? What is the why?

I find that having a group also helps.. like this one. You can always post what your working on here- get encouragement and maybe some accountability.

So, those are my thoughts of writing to a deadline. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below.

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