My Deadline Valentine

Lately, I’ve been thinking  a great deal about what we’ll do for others vs. what we’ll do for ourselves. At work, we go through all sorts of contortions to keep the boss happy. As students, many of us slaved away to get good grades.  We stand in the rain on the sidelines of soccer games to cheer on our kids and will drive them from to remote corners of the city for singing and horseback lessons.

But what will we do for ourselves?  What will we do to make sure that our own dreams come true?  My writing students tell me that one reason they sign up for my class–often the main reason–is just to have a deadline.  And the truth is most writers need deadlines. Why?  Because most of us will let ourselves down–wasting away our writing time on Facebook or lolling around with the Sunday paper–but we won’t let down someone else. If someone–anyone, even someone we don’t even like–is waiting for us to write, expecting us to hand something by deadline, we will write.

So how do you get that deadline feeling when there is no deadline?  Or when your deadline is so far out (a year away?!) that it hardly feels real?  I think we have to create deadlines for ourselves, but it has to be more than circling a random date on the calendar (cause we’re “smart” and we know that no one is going to hold us to those dates).   For most of us, deadlines only work if we know someone is waiting for our work.  And yes, we “should” be able to write just because we want to, but it’s much easier to work with human nature and admit that just because we “should” do something, it doesn’t mean we will.

So here’s a few ideas for creating a deadline:

1. Plan to enter a contest. Poets and Writers website has a comprehensive list of current grants, awards and contests. Pick one and write towards its deadline.

2. Take a writing class. Ignore all your reasons why you shouldn’t take a class: teacher’s not good enough, the other students won’t understand your work, you don’t like driving at night. I’m sure you have lots of good reasons for not taking a class, but any class that provides deadlines is better than not writing.

3. Get a writing buddy. Meet up with your writing buddy in a cafe once a week or once every two weeks. Spend a little time visiting and a lot of time writing. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll get done.

4. Make an appointment with a writing coach. If you have a date on the calendar for getting work to a writing coach, chances are you’re going to get the writing done.

5. Join a writing group. Having a routine of submitting work to a group once a month or so might be the key to keeping a regular writing routine.

6. If a block is stopping you, deal with the block. Here’s a few posts about how I’ve dealt with block myself.

How do you create deadlines for yourself?

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