D is for Deadlines

D is for DeadlinesToday is the fourth day of the A to Z Challenge! I’ll be posting about one letter/word on every weekday in April. Don’t want the barrage of posts? Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I start doing new stuff next month!

D is for Deadlines, a major part of the life of any professional writer.

There are two kinds of deadlines: the kind we set for ourselves and the kind somebody else(a publisher or employer) sets for us.

Self-created deadlines are personal goals/challenges. You might create your own or decide to sign up for an actual writing challenge that imposes a deadline like Nanowrimo, but the point is that you’ve chosen to take on this deadline. Learning how to set realistic deadlines for personal projects is something you can only do by trial and error–and you have to relearn it every once in a while as your skills improve and you can do things faster.

Self created deadlines are much more powerful if you create both a reward for meeting them and a penalty for failing to meet them(barring extreme circumstances, because you should never berate yourself for taking time to deal with crisis or take care of yourself). And as a hobby writer or a published author with no upcoming books on contract, self created deadlines are all you have.

Outside deadlines are generally given to you by somebody paying for your work, whether it’s a publisher, magazine or a company/person hiring you to write marketing materials for them. These deadlines can sometimes be ridiculous, but if you agree to take the deadline on it’s important that you push yourself as hard as necessary to complete the project. Publishers understand book edits can take longer and that personal circumstances can intervene, but meeting 9 out of 10 deadlines is crucial to maintaining a professional reputation.

Most of us find outside deadlines more motivating, since there are usually obvious rewards and repercussions. If nothing else, we love the feeling of helping people and we hate the feeling of letting people down. This alone is often enough to inspire us to meet deadlines, even when it means sticking our butts in the chair for twelve hours at a time.

Of course, outside deadlines can also be paralyzing, especially if the deadline is far too small for the amount of work required. I suspect they’re not any author’s favourite part of being an author, but the pros learn how to move through the petrification and meet those deadlines anyway.

What kinds of deadlines are in your life? How do you feel about deadlines? Let me know in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “D is for Deadlines

  • Personal deadlines seldom work for me unless I challenge myself to push my boundaries enthused by a new found passion.
    However, I’m pretty good at meeting outside deadlines and never miss them unless something dire happens.
    That’s a wonderful take on letter ‘D’ 🙂

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    • dlgunn

      I definitely notice a lot more of my personal deadlines whooshing by than external deadlines, but they still encourage me to work more than I would without them.

      Have you participated in any writing challenges like Nanowrimo(National Novel Writing Month)? They’re a great way to get an external deadline and an awesome community.

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