Love That Deadline

It’s true.  I do.  I love deadlines.

Not that I always love the date attached to the deadline. But no deadline at all is not the writer’s heaven I used to think it was.

I learned early on to work with a contract, even when it wasn’t generated in-house. If I did some work for an individual author or writer, I’d draw up my own contract. I was slower to learn about the value of including a deadline in that document. I wrote a beautiful contract once, covered all bases, got contract advice from the wonderful National Writers Union (NWU: consider joining!), and presented my document to the author I would be writing for. He requested a few changes to the contract, which I made . . . but he said nothing about the absence of a deadline. Woo hoo! Was I a clever girl! I had squirreled out from under the dreaded deadline pressure—which I was sure would squash my creativity. I could now write in peace. I could craft a masterpiece. I was blessed.

. . . until a year into the project, when the book manuscript was not done and I’d run out of money. I now had work I owed someone and more work I needed to take on to pay the rent.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t been writing during that year. I’d been writing every day, loving life. But I hadn’t been focused on the manuscript’s finish line . . . because there wasn’t one. I would get there when the manuscript was complete. Completion was my finish line. But I’d forgotten to take into consideration how long my funds would last.

A painful lesson learned. Now I love deadlines.

Besides, if you have a deadline, you are one of the lucky ones—a writer or editor with a job or a project. It is cause for celebration. And if your deadline is not externally imposed, then you are one of the disciplined ones. Also cause for celebration.

How about you? Do you love that deadline? (We’d love to hear your experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly!)

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6 comments on “Love That Deadline

  1. Kamran says:

    I have a hard time setting self-imposed deadlines. I almost always meet external deadlines. Wish I could figure out a better way to set earlier deadlines for drafts.

    • writingcoachnomi says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kamran. I’ve found it really helpful, when trying to meet a self-imposed deadline, to find a way to be accountable to someone else, such as an action buddy. I’ve even had students and clients write a contract promising they would write a certain number of hours a day or week, or finish a draft by a certain date. They sign the contract and hand it over to me. It really helps!

  2. eaglefem says:

    I once overheard my friend’s father, who was both scientist and teacher, say, “If it weren’t for deadlines, nothing would ever get done!” At the time, I laughed, without realizing the deeper truth of his comment! Deadlines I set for myself are all too easily rationalized away. Deadlines, imposed upon me by others, however, work to push me past all of my resistance and force me to produce. Initially, I’m grumpy and resentful, but eventually, I reach appreciation and gratitude. Thank goodness for the deadlines I hate so much!

    • writingcoachnomi says:

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. You, actually, seem to be writing right along without external deadlines! Or is coming to class your weekly deadline?

      • eaglefem says:

        That’s a good question, Nomi. I write almost every day just because I happen to love the process of writing. It’s actually quite self indulgent. An external deadline, however, serves to push me to be more exact, more mindful, and more productive. As a performer, I have found that there is nothing quite like a live audience to put a deliciously critical edge on whatever I am doing, and reading something I’ve written is, in many ways, a performance. I find that performance creates a subtle shift from self satisfaction to objective critical observation of whatever I’m doing, even if it happens to be just cooking for friends. So, the answer is yes. Coming to class is definitely a “performance deadline!” It gets my juices flowing and I can’t wait for the next series of classes to begin!

  3. writingcoachnomi says:

    So well observed, Anne.

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