In Praise of the Mighty Deadline

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , , ,


I have a vivid memory from when I was in the fifth or sixth grade (back in the days when everything was black and white), and I had a school project due the following day. We’d been given most of the day to work on it in class when it was first assigned, but I’d half-assed it, so the night before it was due I sat down after dinner and looked at what I had, and panicked.

I had skated through the week or two between, thinking it was mostly done so I could just finish it up quick and get back to playing. But I realized there was no way I could fix what I had and make it presentable.

So I started over.

That was a big decision for eleven-year-old me. It meant sacrificing TV or my favorite book, or whatever all-important thing I was into in those days for work, which I hated. I am basically a lazy person who to this day will go to great lengths to find the easiest way to accomplish things.

But an amazing thing happened. I got an A. And I felt something completely new – a sense of pride and accomplishment.

At 50 I have a much better work ethic than I had back then, but I still need help every once in a while. Because laziness. Especially when it’s a personal project and not one for, say, a paying boss.

That’s where the Mighty Deadline really shines.

My current WIP is a middle grade novel that I’m co-writing with my daughter, called The Last Princess. In the past I would finish a chapter whenever I got around to it. It was going to take 2-3 years to finish at that rate. However recently I discovered a very useful tool over at the Critique Circle website. It is a simple word meter, that enables you to choose a certain number of words as a goal for a given month, then displays your progress. Every time you write you add the number of words to the meter and it displays a line graph of your progress toward your goal. I know about how long my chapters tend to be, so I set a goal for that much for each month, and in this way I have upped my pace to a steady chapter per month.

The visual reminder really helps. You can even arrange to have the meter appear on your personal web pages. And there is a fantastic side benefit: I get an additional sense of pride and accomplishment. Even if I don’t get an “A” on every chapter I submit for review.

In what ways do you motivate yourself to write? And are they working?

  1. kdaugh1992 says:

    I would often write instead of working on college homework. Something about procrastinating other school work really helped me out… I kind of just wrote whenever I felt like it, regardless of anything else I had to do. This worked great for me, but I am also just a very unorganized person. (A few glasses of wine also helped out)


  2. Deadlines do rock. Something in your brain just snaps into place and all the things you need to change or add to improve your story become super-clear. But the self-imposed ones haven’t worked for me. I tried the meters etc on CC but on all those zero word-count days were a little demoralizing, vicious cycle. I’m in the middle of a year-long goal-oriented schedule (which I blogged about) and…eh, it’s not adding up the way I thought it would. I’m way behind on many of my goals and only doing well with writing and subbing poetry. *shrug* Guess I’m still looking for the right motivator.


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