Deadlines. We have them in our day jobs, in our personal lives, and in our writing time. Some are imposed on us by outside forces – such as a boss needing a project done, an editor waiting for edits, or a trip to the doctor that has to be reached in spite of everything else needing done. Some are imposed on us by ourselves – pushing to finish a project by a certain time, giving ourselves a set amount of time to complete a housekeeping task, stopping binge watching or reading at a certain time to get to sleep.
Right now I’ve given myself a personal deadline. I want the first draft of the novel I’m working on finished by the end of March. I’m coming into this late since I was originally working on my cyberpunk novel. But it stalled out (though thanks to my husband and a friend I’m getting it back in gear), so I picked up one of my fantasy stories. Specifically the one I started for NaNoWriMo that completely took off in a different direction than I wanted it to. So now I’ve started it over again with the intention of taking plot points that happened way too late in the NaNo novel and moving them up into a space earlier in the book.
I usually set deadlines for myself when it comes to my writing, but usually I don’t set them as tight as this. I save that for November. But I really want to push myself to see if I can do this. Things will probably come up. It looks like the farm is gearing up and I’ll most likely pitch in to help out. I can’t leave it all to everyone else. So that’s going to cut into my writing time. I also cook dinner, which eats some into my time. I have trouble writing after dinner because my focus is usually shot by the end of the day. So I need to maximize my time during the day.
The problem I have with self-imposed deadlines is I feel guilty for not reaching my goal in the specified time. I tend to beat myself up when it happens, calling myself a failure and generally getting angry at myself for not being able to pull everything off that I want to. This doesn’t just include writing. This includes every part of my life.
My husband has a saying that I’m trying to take to heart: “It’s only a failure if you don’t try.” I find this hard to believe. I still look on mistakes as failures. But sometimes I realize that a mistake is just that – a mistake. It’s temporary. As long as I don’t keep making the same mistakes time and time again I’ll be one step ahead of the game. Even if I do make the same mistake a few times, it’s not the end of the world. I just need to figure out what else needs to change.
Deadlines can be very useful, if you plan them out ahead of time. When you set a goal with a time period, make smaller goals to go with it. Set yourself up a plan and try to stick to it. When setbacks occur, don’t kick yourself over it. Learn and move on. This is something I’m still learning how to do, but I’ve had the advice from a lot of successful people over the years so I know it’s going to be something that works. Above all, look at deadlines as the end result of a game. It’s a prize waiting to happen. And reward yourself once you hit your deadline. I’m not sure what my reward will be for finishing by the end of March. But I’m going to come up with something.