Friday, December 2

Raise the Stakes on Your Writing Schedule

I always leave things until the last minute. When I was twelve, I woke up at 5am to write a geography essay. I was still writing it in the moments before class. My resulting grade was an A+.

Despite the fact that I was never able to duplicate that result, it was still my tactic. Well, not quite. My tactic was to get it out of the way early…for the first time ever. Regardless of that naïve goal, the wake-up-in-the-morning-and-write-it manoeuvre was duplicated too many times to count.*

Deadlines are difficult things. They seem to be the hook that lures procrastination until you can see the shark teeth up close. Still, I believe that deadlines are important. All the times that I have not had a deadline, I have just procrastinated indefinitely. Even if those deadlines of the past did leave me doing everything at the last minute, I did get them done.

The same goes for my writing, if I have a given deadline. Say, with NaNoWriMo (International Novel Writing Month) where I have a 30 day deadline, I might got days and days and days without writing and then cram a whole lot of it in at the end.

This year for NaNoWriMo, I fell behind on my word count for the first time ever. In the past two years, I had always reached 50,000 words within less than a week. Not this year. This time, on the 28th of November, I had less than 19,000 words. On the 29th I had managed to make it to 30,000. I wrote the last 20,000 words on the last day of the month.

Crazy? Yes. Productive? One hundred percent. It is so satisfying knowing that I have accomplished something. I could have given up but I didn’t and it left me with in far better mood for the writing months ahead.

You need to choose a deadline for a project and stick with it. Working on the first draft of a novel? Make a deadline. Whether it is a date for your first draft to be completed by or just a set goal of writing a particular amount of words per day, it can push you to do something when you might otherwise dawdle.

Of course, sticking to these goals and deadlines can be hard. It is always handy to get someone else in on the challenge with you. Writing 500 or 1000 words a day? Why not find a writing buddy who is also keen to take up the challenge? You might even be able to have word wars to keep the adrenaline going.

So, whether you are aiming to get a writing project finished, read a set amount of books in a month or have a new blog post up by midnight, choose your target, pick a due date and then tell everyone, so that they will all shame cheer you into succeeding.

Do you find deadlines to be useful? How do you stick to them?

*This regular strategy happening was right up there with going to the school office, putting on a pathetic countenance and saying, ‘I’m not feeling very well’, only to be told, ‘Yes, you do look a little pale.’

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