Monday, April 29, 2013

Gotta have a deadline

Are you a “carrot” or “stick” type of writer, with regard to your own motivation? Do you ever reward yourself for finishing a book/chapter/scene/sentence? How? What other types of motivation do you use?

by Meredith Cole

There's too much going on in my life and there are too many things competing for my attention (family, kid, cats, garden, etc.) to be on a loosey-goosey schedule. I need deadlines. I crave them. And if an editor is not nice enough to give me one on a project, I make up a deadline for myself.

It seems silly that I would feel obligated to meet a deadline that I made up, but somehow it works for me. It helps me prioritize everything else. What are we having for dinner this week? Ooops, I've got a deadline. Take-out! Or I'm getting close to a deadline, so I make sure to set aside extra time to get my pages done.

Also, I think it's important to reward yourself for a job well done. Or at least done on time. When I finish something big, I give myself some time off from writing. We're not talking finishing a chapter--but maybe a draft. The time off is both a reward and a necessity, since I need a little breathing room before I start to tackle the next draft.

The rewards I give myself don't have to be expensive, but they do have to feel special and celebratory, though (Champagne? Chocolate? A massage? Dinner out at a nice restaurant?) Writing does provide its own rewards. There's nothing like seeing your work in print, and holding your own book for the first time. But there's a lot of hard work that happens between that first brilliant idea and that book, and sometimes it's hard to stay focused. So when a writer does stay focused and finishes, they definitely deserve to celebrate. And so I do.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'm deadline motivated, too, Meredith. Always have been. I also seem to write better with alligators snapping at my butt.

Barry Knister said...

I imagine lots of obligations force a writer to establish and observe deadlines. That is, if s/he's actually a writer. Unlike you, I don't have a lot going on, which means I don't get the "help" that comes from all the competing items in your time pie chart. Make no mistake, though: I'm not complaining.
And I believe in rewards. It can take any form, but a drink before dinner does it for me. I confess, though, that even when I don't meet my quota, I still reward myself. And when I've had a really good day at the keyboard, I treat myself more generously.