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Do writers need deadlines or space?

Do writers need deadlines or space header

In June, I forward loaded my blog posts. I had some great interviews from Graham Wynd and Mark Ramsden in the pot, and I decided to use those and a few other posts to get the blog sorted and make room for my writing. My most recent project needed a lot of work and a lot of time putting in to it. The theory was by taking my blog out of the picture, I’d be able to write more on the novel.

The plan was fool-proof. The only thing I didn’t think about was the effect that not having a deadline would have on my writing.

Why being organised doesn’t help me

June was a busy ‘real world’ month. I was in the process of organising a house move and dealing with all the fun and games that go along with that. I was determined that my project would get to the next stage.

However, knowing that the blog was fully loaded and any external deadline was already met, my writing tailed off. I used the house move as an excuse to procrastinate, and the fact that the blog was ready as an excuse not to return to the computer.

A calendar

In the end, while I got some work done on the novel, it was nowhere near the concerted push that I’d hoped to do. The gorgeous weather outside probably had an influence, as did the crazy moving week. But for most of the time I still had a similar routine, I still had to go to work and sit on the train. My novel just didn’t change much over the weeks.

Some writers (including this one) need deadlines

For me, the external deadlines really help. They not only focus my attention, they give me a reason to write. I wrote a few weeks ago about the benefits the blog has on my writing. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the key side effect for me is that the deadlines also spur me into action.

A deadline or two really helps focus my mind on what I need to work on. It helps me set my priorities. If I haven’t written an blog post by Tuesday evening, I might feel like watching the latest episode of Preacher is a better use of my time. But, if I haven’t written a blog post by lunchtime on Saturday, you can bet that I’ll have one written by dinner – regardless of what books I want to read or shows I want to watch.

Some writers need space

Yet I know other writers who thrive in an open ended structure. They hate the idea of deadlines, and will refuse to set any times or expected completion dates. It doesn’t mean that these writers are any less likely to procrastinate. It’s just that they’ll do it with an open ended structure.

It is easy to fall into a long, drawn out project that never gets finished. The longer a project runs for (unless it’s just me) the longer the chance that I’ll get bored and try and switch onto something else (even though I know that I shouldn’t).

A view of a lake - getting some space

What I’ll do next time

Front loading the blog is a good habit that I really want to get into. However, I’ve decided that, if I do that again, I’ll ensure that I set some expectations around my novel writing. That way, I can get some quick wins, but also make sure that I don’t become a victim of my own organization…

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