Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Defying Deadlines

By Lorianne Watts
2003,
Lorianne Watts

Ninety-nine percent of the time deadlines approach us much more quickly than we'd like. And with those deadlines comes more stress than any of us need to encounter in a lifetime. Simply put, writing is perhaps one of the most stressful jobs out there.

With National Novel Writing Month coming upon us quickly, one can't help but wonder, "How exactly am I supposed to pull this off?" Averaged, a person has to write about 1,666 words a day. But what happens if we miss a day? We stress and attempt to double up to maintain our daily word count goal.

In a perfect world, we would have twenty-four hours a day to write, seven days a week, and we would not need sleep or anything else that distracts us. We could write to our heart's content and have permanent smiles on our faces.

Well, that will never happen. Instead, we have to learn how to deal with eating, sleeping, working, and school. We must write around all of these events in whatever hours we can squeeze in.

It would be ridiculous for me to offer advice on how to relax, for the sheer reason that, when it comes to writing, I'm one of the most neurotic people living on this planet. If I don't write, I get snappy, and if I get behind...well, that's just an ugly sight. But the point is that I can't relax until I'm ahead of my word count and satisfied with my writing. This includes my daily goal of 1500 words! So instead of relaxation pointers, let's check out some survival pointers-for both big and small goals.

1) Write. Being behind a goal is frustrating, and it's easy to call it quits and give up. That's not the way to achieve a goal. As a matter of fact, it's not the way to achieve much of anything. So sit down, and just write, even if it's not on that novel that you've got two weeks to finish. Just write. A poem, an article, a bunch of notes. Once your mind is off the goal, it's easier to go back to it a few hours later.

2) Caffeine is your friend. Yes, I'm just kidding. Slightly. Don't get so stressed out that you vow not to eat, drink, or sleep until you finish the deadline. Even thinking like that depletes your energy. I've been known to pull this before, and I always passed out from exhaustion ten to twenty minutes later. Go get some food. It will not only help you physically, but it will also (more than likely) give your brain an energy kick as well.

3) There is no such thing as writer's block. There really isn't. There will always be something to say at a certain point in time -- who cares if it's complete crap? That's what revisions are for. In the meantime, write to keep the story flowing. Eventually, after writing X amount of crap, you'll be able to get back in and get the creative juices really flowing. So don't stop out of frustration. Tell yourself that there is no writer's block.

4) Push yourself, but not to the point where it's overwhelming. I'm very guilty of this. During Forward Motion's Labor of Love, for example, I wouldn't allow myself to do anything but write, and it got to the point where I got depressed because I thought I couldn't do it. True, I'm still on cloud nine simply because I did finish, but looking back, I know I should have never permitted myself to get so down and out of sorts. I wouldn't talk to anyone and I wouldn't take any breaks until I felt comfortable in my word count. (When you're doing nothing but writing and you're still worrying your mother, yes, that's a problem.) Never, ever tell yourself you can't do it. You can. Trust me. You're writing, you can do it.

5) Celebrate, but don't get lazy. Congratulate yourself. Brag. You definitely deserve bragging rights. You accomplished a goal, and furthermore, you did something that most people can't do. The best feeling in the world is knowing you achieved something and overcame doubt. The relief and exhilaration is amazing. However, don't stop writing! Keep working. If nothing else, accomplishing more goals gives you more bragging rights. (Please, only use that as a last-resort excuse for writing.)

As writers, we create things, we find ways of description, we create people, we meet deadlines, and we (for the most part) are still sane people. No matter what happens, you will always have the gift of writing.

Got a deadline? Laugh at it and don't stress. The fact that you're writing is a lot more than most people do. And also, turn to your friends and family for support and encouragement. It meant a lot to me just knowing that there were people out there striving for the same goal, cheering me on. People who would listen to me when I was having doubts, encourage me when I was down. Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.

Goals and deadlines are always going to be part of a writer's life. It's something we have to get used to dealing with and overcoming. No matter what you write, what genre you write, deadlines will be there. It's simply a matter of knowing how to deal. And, luckily, you do. It's a process of learning, much like writing itself. So enjoy it. It's a part of what you love to do, what you're capable of doing. All you have to do is keep in mind that deadlines are things to be laughed at and surpassed in expectations.