So! You’re writing and that’s great. You even have a date you want to finish by. A deadline!
What happens when you stop?
Have you ever had your writing gradually peter out over the course of a week, or maybe two, leaving you to feel like inspiration has run down your leg and into your sock, and you’re not sure how to get it going again?
Even worse, do you have a deadline looming? Oh yes, those dishes in that sink are going to get really clean right now, aren’t they? Procrasination my old friend… (cue Simon and Garfunkel here)
Sometimes it can be really hard to keep the inspiration coming, over and over again, especially in the long-haul of a large project.
There are a couple of things to look at that are at work here, that need looking at so that you can gently and easily lead yourself back to the page where you’re meant to be putting down words.
The first is your deadline. Take a look at it. Who made that deadline? Chances are if you’re reading here, it was you. If you’re putting so much pressure on yourself with this deadline that you are scaring your writing away, then it’s not serving you, and you need to change it. I know this sounds really simple, but it’s a truth that many of us forget: if you made the deadline, you can change it. Even if you’ve gone and announced it to the world and made a big song and dance about it. You will get respect for knowing your limits, and not working yourself into a screaming mess by keeping to the original one.
The second is to be gentle with your writing self. I know that it’s counter-intuitive, but the theory is sound. If you make writing seem like a punishment, for example by setting and keeping to unrealistic deadlines that make you feel like you’re a word machine working in the writing gulag, then you won’t want to write. If you set realistic deadlines, or move them to make them realistic if life gets in the way, then you’re being kind to yourself as a writer, and you’ll write with more ease.
Thirdly, a deadline is different to a timeline, and they both serve different purposes. With the first, you have a date. It gets closer and closer, and you work to fulfil it. A timeline, however, has many dates on it, with things to do by the time each date rolls around. Again, I know that this seems really simple, but it’s worth saying, again and again. Using a timeline is important when you have a large project on the go because it gives you the sense that you’re hitting targets and that all that writing is adding up to something. If you only have a deadline for your book, you’ll be trying to get the whole elephant onto the page at once, and not a chapter at a time, which is far more manageable.
If you make a timeline for your book, it might look something like:
- End of August: have book mapped out, sections planned and some research ideas noted down
- September: write sections. Have at least 3 finished by the end of the month, and be researching and note-taking
- October: sections 3-6 done, or equivalent
- and so on
Basically, it’s a loose idea of the volume of work you expect yourself to do over the course of time. I find that it keeps me more honest than a deadline, because I’m not working towards a massive date that all of the work is ‘due.’
The great thing about a timeline is that it will also work in conjunction with a deadline, so that you’re filling in the plan for your time, and getting words on the page which will be all to the good when your deadline rolls around. My advice would be to make a deadline, AND a timeline. Use one with the other, so that you’re getting yourself along the road to finished as well as on the road to meeting a date you’ve set yourself.
Accountability also comes in here, if you’re the type to need a prod in the proverbial sometimes, but that’s a whole other topic…
Let me know what you feel about deadlines and timelines. Do your deadlines feel kind? What about your timelines? Which are useful, and how have you used them to get your writing done?