Deadlines…A Date With Destiny

We need to create some new English words to describe certain things.

For instance, I do not like the fact that people who handle money for others are called “brokers.”

I also dislike the term “deadline” as it indicates something negative will occur at a certain date or time. Maybe it is why some or most people are fearful of deadlines.

I do not like a “line of death.”

Even “target date” has a connotation of someone aiming a weapon at you as you approach.

“Drop-dead date?” I don’t think I would want to get out of bed that morning.

Some people are not bothered at all by the tyranny of a finishing line. Author Judy Blume said, “I’m very good at setting goals and deadlines for myself, so I don’t really need that from outside.”

But others find writing enjoyable when there are no deadlines and less enjoyable with them. Author George R.R. Martin said, “I’ve never been good with deadlines. My early novels, I wrote by myself. No one knew I was writing a novel; I didn’t have a contract.”

If you want to be a professional writer, deadlines will always (emphasize always) be part of your life. There will be a date when you need to be finished. If you need to write a 50,000-word manuscript in the next 100 days, manage your time accordingly.

A number of years ago I discussed with a friend the issue of some people being perpetually late in everything they do and asserted it was a lack of consideration for others who do their work on time, arrive on time or finish their work on time. I viewed it as a character issue.

My friend had a different opinion of it. He thought some people needed the “energy” of an impending deadline to drive them to action. In some cases, people “liked” being late because of the adrenaline rush.

Interesting concept, but far beyond my pay grade as a freelance non-credentialed psychologist.

The point is, if you want to be a writer, meeting deadlines will be part of your success and missing deadlines will contribute to your failure.

Chronic missed deadlines have caused any number of very talented people to never be published again. It’s the proverbial “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

The only people who can get away with missing deadlines are authors who are so successful a publisher will adjust everything just to accommodate them. People at publishers have lost their jobs in cost-cutting moves because a major author was going to need another year to finish their book.

But this is not the case for 99% of authors. You miss, you lose.

Even successful self-published authors feel this when they tell their constituency their new book will be available on a certain date and it doesn’t happen.

How do you learn to keep deadlines? Here are some tips:

  • Treat your work like a job. Every day you go to work and accomplish a certain amount of work. Using the example above of the 50,000-word manuscript due in 100 days, this means you need to write 500 well-chosen words per day on average. Easier said than done.
  • Train yourself by committing to doing something small on a regular basis. Blogging regularly is good training to honor deadlines.
  • Have a deadline accountability partner – sometimes this could be an editor at your publisher. Having a regular meeting to report progress has an amazing effect on your view of deadlines. It will also eliminate the “deadline surprise” which is a terrible thing to spring on your publisher. A week ago everything was “on-track” but today you will be a month late? Bad karma for everyone.

In the end, meeting deadlines should come from within you. A little internal clock, which tells you, it’s time to get to work. The mindset of the high school or college student waiting until the last minute is always present, laying dormant, waiting to jump out and devour your project.

A little accountability antidote will keep it dormant and make your life as a writer much more enjoyable.


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