Propelling Your Writing with Deadlines

by Meredith Cole

There’s too much going on in my life and there are too many things competing for my attention (family, kid, cats, garden, etc.) to be on a loosey-goosey schedule. I need deadlines. I crave them. And if an editor is not nice enough to give me one on a project, I make up a deadline for myself.

It seems silly that I would feel obligated to meet a deadline that I made up, but somehow it works for me. It helps me prioritize everything else. What are we having for dinner this week? Ooops, I’ve got a deadline. Take-out! Or I’m getting close to a deadline, so I make sure to set aside extra time to get my pages done.

Also, I think it’s important to reward yourself for a job well done. Or at least done on time. When I finish something big, I give myself some time off from writing. We’re not talking finishing a chapter–but maybe a draft. The time off is both a reward and a necessity, since I need a little breathing room before I start to tackle the next draft.

The rewards I give myself don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to feel special and celebratory, though (Champagne? Chocolate? A massage? Dinner out at a nice restaurant?) Writing does provide its own rewards. There’s nothing like seeing your work in print, and holding your own book for the first time. But there’s a lot of hard work that happens between that first brilliant idea and that book, and sometimes it’s hard to stay focused. So when a writer does stay focused and finishes, they definitely deserve to celebrate. And so I do.

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