Deadline Power!

picture of a rust-colored daisy on a keyboard

I photographed this autumn-colored daisy on a computer keyboard with my Droid phone, using the Retrocamera app's pinhole camera option.

There seems to be nothing more powerful than a writing deadline to make the words flow. You’d think that if you have a lot of time to work on a project that you would naturally do a little bit each day and eventually end up with a massive project. In fact, that is exactly what doesn’t happen. You keep putting it off, knowing that you have plenty of time to do it later. But later kind of sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?

I suppose I’ve known this for years, but self-imposed deadlines never seem to have quite the same stimulating effect on my writing output as external factors, such as contests and class deadlines. NaNoWriMo is turning into one of those stimulating external factors. I’d hoped that I would finish the month of November with 50,000 words, not so much so that I could brag about winning, but to prove to myself that I could put in that amount of work on a creative project and actually finish a manuscript.

Well, of course the month isn’t over yet, and in fact it’s not even halfway done. But last Friday I managed to top the 25,000-word mark, and Sunday I put in slightly more than another two thousand words to end up with 27,277 words at the end of Sunday evening. Tonight I’m going to a write-in and I’m aiming for 30,000 words by the end of tonight.

Of course, I’ve had to put my term paper on hold for a few days while I do this, as well as any freelance writing that I would otherwise do. It’s simply not possible to do all of them at once. Surprisingly, writing is tiring. I thought I was being lazy, but most people I’ve talked to say that writing for two to three hours a day is average. No one sits down at the computer at nine in the morning and types for eight hours straight. But it is possible to write a fair number of words in just two hours. And with the mighty power of the deadline, giving myself just an hour or two a day to do some writing has been pretty productive. Best of all, keeping the time down has kept this exercise in literary abandon from becoming a drudge. The month-long deadline is a challenge, but the daily writing deadlines I’ve had to create for myself. So far, it’s working pretty well.

I guess the point of all this is that if you get stuck on a creative project, give yourself a deadline and just work on it for that amount of time or until you reach a predetermined point with your project. It really helps to break it down into manageable portions, and you won’t feel so overwhelmed. I was afraid that NaNo would be too much, but there’s a huge support group out there. Enjoy the week. I’ll see you on Thursday for the weekly writing prompts.