Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Writing Wednesday: The Power of Deadlines

Greetings and Happy Writing to all!

I'm in a much better mood having recently met my writing deadline on my latest book project, going down to the wire but crossing the finish line with time to spare. Not much time, mind you, but days instead of hours so I'm counting that as a huge win.

And it got me thinking how deadlines are like a double-edged sword - they motivate you to get the job done while simultaneously inducing stress that can at times be so paralyzing as to prevent you from reaching your goal.

In January, my editor friend and I joined a local gym as a New Years Resolution to be healthier. We spent several hours on treadmills and recumbent bicycles discussing our projects and deadlines - mine for the upcoming book and hers for a manuscript she's editing for another writer. Our initial conversation motivated us each to count the number of days we had left to finish.

The countdown motivated me to buckle down and write... I put aside extra time, wrote out a game plan, put dates on the calendar for the remaining steps left to accomplish, and made it happen.

Counting down the remaining days had the opposite effect on her. She focused too hard on the number and how impossible the looming deadline would be to reach. She stressed out, mentally and physically, and caught the flu and got bogged down in unrelated (and unnecessary) time-sucks.

And she missed her deadline.

In her case, she seemed to be humming along at a fine pace - until she realized how close the finish line was. If she'd just kept going, head down and working, she would've made it in plenty of time to present to the client. As it is, she had to make excuses and rearrange, and yes, things worked out for her, but with a whole boatload of stress loaded on top.

It's important to understand what kind of motivation works for you and your work style. If you're the type who's motivated by a red date circled on the calendar, use it. Count it out, plan, and figure out the steps in between to make it happen.

If you're the type who sees a drop-dead date and panics... you may need to rethink how you deal with deadlines. And as much as I've tried to counsel my friend over the years (this isn't the first time I've seen it happen to her) I don't know what the answer is. I'm totally open to suggestions - if anyone has experienced that sort of "fear of success" before and figured out a way to overcome it, please share!

Now that I understand this about myself, I need to rethink my own writing habits. Setting calendar dates for milestones is positive thing for my writing style and would probably help stave off a lot of future stress. And again, if anyone has methods to help follow through with this goal, please share! I've already signed up for my next release date (in November for a holiday-themed story) and plan to go about this next endeavor more logically (LOL - as if my writer brain can work in a logical manner!)

So tell me - how do you deal with deadlines? What motivates you to finish a project?

And in the meantime, Happy Writing to ALL!


  1. I'm conscientious to a fault, and I like deadlines but they do amp up my anxiety. I usually put self-imposed deadlines on myself. But I do work well with them. I spread it out, pace, and allow room for taking a break or if life happens (illness and such). If gives a goal and something to look forward to. But some deadlines need to be flexible, too.

  2. I love deadlines because it focuses me. If I've got something due tomorrow I'm gonna shut off all social media distractions, let my TBR list build and forget about TV until I need to do what I need to do!

  3. You're correct, Katie: "deadlines are like a double-edged sword - they motivate you to get the job done while simultaneously inducing stress that can at times be so paralyzing as to prevent you from reaching your goal."

    After several years in this business, I've learned that a deadline can always be extended. Life happens. Period. Trust me, I'm a task-master. I'm my own worst boss when it comes to meeting a deadline, but I no longer stress to the max.

  4. Deadlines both terrify and motivate me, a strange combo. I often have to hurry my critique group along to get their valuable input before I submit my work. Once, I had to submit without their last words. I'd say I prefer deadlines, but not ones that rise up too quickly.

  5. Truer words were never spoken. "deadlines are like a double-edged sword - they motivate you to get the job done while simultaneously inducing stress that can at times be so paralyzing as to prevent you from reaching your goal"
    I'm on the cusp of making one deadline with two others looming. How I get myself into these pickles, I not sure, but am going to research it next time I get a moment. Only time will tell if I make it. Deadlines are motivation, but too many... well lets say stress is my constant companion these days. Exercise four times a week is a must, helps me get the job done. Have a great rest of the week!

  6. That makes a lot of sense. I'm the kind of person who takes what I need to do and divides up among the days I have. As long as I meet my daily goal, I don't worry. But it's not for everyone!

  7. I'd be horrible at deadlines! I need to write at my own pace or it comes out like garbage.

  8. I enjoyed your post. It was an interesting read. I sometimes have to kick myself in the butt to sit at my desk and write. It's not easy as there are so many distractions out there.

  9. When I have a deadline I like to give myself a buffer so I plan to get things done in advance. With writing, I like to turn in the manuscript a day or so before it’s due. With interviews I like to get info to the host ahead of time as everyone’s time is just as important. I think I stay motivated to finish projects because of my days working in the lab when I had a pending log of patients results that needed to be run before the end of my shift. Every day I create a mental pending log of what I need to accomplish and I work towards that all day, staying awake until 3am if necessary to accomplish my tasks. Of course I overestimate the amount of work I can tackle in a day so I’m awake later to finish it. Lol

  10. I'm a 'Too many irons in the fire' kind of woman. I have to work at my own pace. I'll never be wildly successful, but I'm happy the way I am. I'll leave the deadlines to you organized ladies.

  11. I do fine with deadlines, probably due to a lifetime of work deadlines before I left teaching to write full time. Then again, with only one book out and one coming soon, I haven't had that many writing deadlines imposed from without.

  12. Great post! I definitely need deadlines. I tend to leave it all to the last minute otherwise. You know, like we did in college. Write the term paper at 2am the night before it is due. I'm better now, but having some structure helps me stay on track. I definitely factor in some flexibility too.

  13. Great post! I try to self-impose deadlines but those don't work as well for me as ones that come from my publisher. I can meet the publisher's deadlines, but not my own. Not sure why that is!


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