In Praise of the Mighty Deadline

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

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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?

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Comments
  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)

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  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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