Tag Archives: deadlines

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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Deadlines Are Our Friends

Hello again! Yes, Mots Justes is back online, having survived the thesis throes. And yes, as a commenter on the post below notes, unfortunately it is well past November 4. Here’s what happened:

As noted in my last post, I decided that during the last month before my thesis was due, I could ill afford any distractions. I had to cut out anything unnecessary-i.e., anything that didn’t pay the rent. Unfortunately, that meant the blog had to go on hiatus.

MJ wasn’t the only sacrifice, however: I stopped freelancing, too (which arguably does help pay the rent, but not much). I stopped cooking, which resulted in a late-night run to Ralph’s by my desperate significant other, who never goes grocery stopping, and a fridge full of frozen pizzas, pot pies, and Lloyd’s Barbeque Pork. I stopped cleaning my house. That has yet to be remedied.

What I did do is write, as many as 1,000 words a day, which is epic for me. It was frantic. It was stressful. It was really kind of great.

At no other point in my career had my creative writing taken center stage. At no other time was it the most important thing that simply had to get done. There were no other articles to write, no other assignments to turn in, no blogs to post that took precedence over my novel. It was wonderful.

And then, with just two-and-a-half weeks to go, I got a month extension. I didn’t even ask for it; it just arrived, uninvited, in my inbox. My thesis was now due on December 3.

I expressed joy and relief at the time, of course—deadlines are the bane of any writer’s existence, and extensions are always welcome. Inside, however, all I could think was “Oh, no …”

You see, for the past year or so I had been building toward this November 3 deadline. I had put MJ on hiatus for it. I had pushed back the ship date of Southern California Review, of which I am editor-in-chief, so I wouldn’t have to turn it and my thesis in at around the same time. And truthfully, I liked the idea of handing in this major project on my birthday. Now, my blog would be offline for two months, I still had to turn in SCR and my thesis at the same time (literally on the same day), and the new due date was, well, insignificant.

Then I did what I feared I would do, what I knew I would: I stopped writing. Less than two months before my thesis was due, I didn’t write. For two whole weeks.

Yes, I could have stuck to the original deadline. I could have finished the draft by November 3 and given myself a whole extra month to revise and edit. But I don’t work that way. I don’t do anything until I absolutely have to.

Eventually, I found myself in the same position as the day the deadline was extended—running out of time and writing like mad. And again, it was great.

Today, now that my thesis is turned in, SCR is at the printer, and my gig at the Writing Center has come to an end (alas, you have to be a graduate enrolled in classes to stay on the payroll), my life looks completely differently from just five days ago, and my goal is to hang on to some of that momentum, to not stop writing again now that there’s no deadline.

I’ll explore ways to do that in tomorrow’s post. In the meantime, how have deadlines been your friend?

Caught in the ’Net

How to

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