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Tuesday
Mar132012

Deadline With Myself

Question of the day: You mentioned in your last post that you set a self-imposed deadline. Can you talk a bit more about why and how you do that?

Sure. Here's the simple answer: without a deadline for a project, I very likely won't get it done. Or I will procrastinate it or put it at the bottom of my list, such that it weighs on me to the point of resentment. SO. To combat this, I almost inevitably impose my own deadlines that I stick to as closely as I would a deadline assigned by an editor.

So, for example, right now, with the promotional stuff, one of my publicists sent me a long list of original content that she needs with me. I read it, and thought, "Sure, that sounds fine." And then a week went by, and then another, and I realized there was just no way I was going to ever write that stuff. So I wrote her back and said, give me a deadline for every single one of these, and I will get them done. She did as much, and that firm line in the sand motivated me to write all of those articles in the next two days.

With the screenplays I'm working on, I actually give deadlines to my producers...they are happy to get what I turn in whenever I turn it in, but I can't work that way. So, for example, I'll say: I intend to get you 50 pages by X date, and then I work backwards from there. I calculate how many pages a day I'll need to write to meet that deadline...and I write them. Often times, I write faster than I imagined but without that date looming over me, there's no chance I would.

I think this can be a really useful tool when you're working on a spec manuscript. You really don't have a lot of incentive to get to it every day, but if you put that incentive on yourself, you're much apt to do, IMO. Just saying, "Oh, I'm going to write a book," can be really daunting. Saying, "I'm going to write ten pages in ten days," is much less so.

Do you guys work this way with your own deadlines? Have you found it to be helpful?

Reader Comments (4)

Absolutely. If the project is particularly important, I make sure to share my deadline w/ my closest friends and family members. I am pretty good at being accountable to myself, but that adds an extra dimension.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

I have to make my own deadlines, a few days in advance of external ones. It keeps me sane and productive.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEliana

Totally! I'm strict with myself too. Sometimes when I say I can't do something social because "I have a deadline," I notice that friends will give me an, "Um...OK...but that deadline's only in your head" vibe. Which is true. But that's what I need. Also find that To-Do lists are key!

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

To me deadlines are the difference between being a hobby writer and taking it professionally. If the deadline isn't external it's a good habit to get into. Figure out how much you can write in a typical week divided by the average word count (or page count) for your project and then you know when a reasonable deadline would be. Or the opposite- I want to have this project done by this date and that means I need to X per week.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEileen
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