Deadlines Are Our Friends—Part II: How to Function Without One

As discussed at length in yesterday’s post, I handed in my thesis last week. As the deadline approached, I was writing furiously, madly. Now that the deadline has passed, however, I fear I may stop. (I prefer to think of my current lapse as a “break” or a “pause” as I consider my next step.) How will I function without a deadline?

  1. Set new deadlines. For example, I might say to myself that I am going to complete the second draft by the time I walk for my diploma in May. Of course, deadlines are hard to enforce if there are no consequences for missing them—like, say, having to extend (and pay for) your studies for yet another semester.
  2. Join or form a writers group. If the group meets regularly, you’ll have regular deadlines, and you will be held accountable.
  3. Get and enforcer. I learned this trick of the trade from Mark Sarvas over at the Elegant Variation. When he was writing his first novel, Harry, Revised, his goal was to write two pages a day. Upon completion of this goal, he sent an email to a friend with a simple “done” in the subject line. If he didn’t check in, his friend got after him.
  4. Schedule writing into your daily routine. Set aside time. This should be as important as grocery shopping, or showering. More important.
  5. Set goals—a number of words or pages or hours to be met every day or every week. Think of it like a job—if you miss your quota, you have to make it up the next day. Monthly goals are less effective, as it’s hard to make up three-and-half weeks’ worth of missed work over the last couple of days.
  6. Join a support network. I caught on to Facebook rather late, but many of my “friends” are fellow writers. I see through their status updates, and they see through mine, whether they are writing. Mutual encouragement and support ensue.
  7. Don’t make writing so precious. If getting to work on that second draft of your novel is too intimidating, spend some time with your writers notebook instead.
  8. Shift gears. Do some research. Or switch to short stories.
  9. Attend readings. There’s nothing more inspirational than being in the presence of other writers.

Caught in the ’Net

The newspaper industry is feeling the effects of the economic crisis: Tribune Co., parent company of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, has filed for bankruptcy, and ad sales at newspapers will likely be even worse next year. One pundit makes the case for the resurrection of the New Deal’s Federal Writers Project.


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