Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Dichotomy of Deadlines

"There are those who make their own deadlines and those who have deadlines thrust upon them".
Elspeth Antonelli

I happily admit that I have two distinct sides to my personality. There is the side that is creative and the side that is business. The creative side is the one responsible for decorating the house, baking, and (in the past) acted, directed and designed costumes; now it writes. The business side is the one responsible for setting budgets and sticking to them, knowing when the car insurance needs to be renewed and making sure enough money is set aside for that 'rainy day'. In the past it ran a theatre company. I'm sure most people have these qualities. The business side recognizes the seriousness of deadlines; the creative side does the actual writing. However, there are two different types deadlines and that's where my trouble starts.

Imposed Deadlines

These have been around since school when a teacher said "The homework is due Friday." Everyone learned how to deal with it; some did it that night, some did it over a number of days, some did it Friday morning. Regardless of methodology, the homework was handed in. Now we deal with deadlines imposed by publishers, contests, etc. There is a date carved in stone and (with publishers) a signed contract. I've never had a problem meeting these, usually with room to spare (as I knock wood). I acknowledge a great amount of almost-last-second flurry and the inevitable panic when my brain decides to freeze; but the project always gets done and submitted.

Self-Imposed Deadlines

I concede to the world that these are my Waterloo. I can set them but it's rare that I meet them. I think it's because I know the world isn't going to cave in if I don't. The only person who knows I didn't meet my deadline is me. I admit a certain amount of self-loathing ensues, but I can move on. I know there are writers out there who set themselves deadlines or writing goals and meet them with ease. They write 2,000 words a day, or five chapters a week. They finish their first draft in a timely and effective manner. My envy has no bounds.

How do you deal with these deadlines? Are both types met with self-discipline and fortitude? If so, how on earth do you do it? Please share your magic formula!


  1. I operate by deadlines- without them I am a ruderless ship. Daily I set small deadlines which I write on my diary page for the day. By each goal/deadline there is a circle. Before I shut off the computer and go for my afternoon swim every circle should have a big X in it. Also, I've found always finish the things you don't like doing first.

  2. I really suck at self-imposed deadlines. I blame this on being Italian (we Italians are lousy organizers, lousy at time management), and I too admire those w/ self-discipline.

    When I was a grad student and my thesis deadline was approaching, I hunkered down and made a schedule for every single day. I broke everything down to 60-90-minute tasks, including breaks, checking emails, meals, etc., and everything had a time slot. It was a lifesaver. 95% of the time I stuck to the schedule.

    If I had to live every day like that, however, I'd probably kill myself. But I think there needs to be some kind of compromise, and I haven't been willing to step up to the plate yet.

  3. I used to be pretty good at self-imposed deadlines. But now, for some reason, it's getting harder and harder to meet them. Dang Internet!

  4. I'm good at meeting deadlines from outside sources but my with my self-imposed deadlines...not so much. I guess it's because those voices in my head refuse to take me seriously!

  5. Lauri; That's a good plan. For me the trick would be to give myself a reasonable goal. I'll give it a try. Thanks!

    Elisa; I'm of English/Irish heritage despite my Italian last name. I should be good at deadlines with the whole nose to the grindstone in my background. Your timetable during grad school sounds good. I'm fairly good at routines, but I do then complain about being in a rut!

    Alan; I know what you mean about the Internet. Dang it to Disney!

    Jane; That's what I'm afraid of too. What if the voices are right? Thanks so much for dropping by, hope to see you often!

  6. I am a maniac when it comes to self-imposed deadlines. I'll usually try to meet them at all costs...even if it means making stupid decisions.

    I'm trying to give myself more leeway now. I think I'm my own worst enemy!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  7. I don't do a lot of self-imposed deadlines. My life is so busy and changeable, I find deadlines stress me out and I get less done. Strangely what I consider "real deadlines" (things I don't contrrol) don't stress me out too much. I'm not much of a procrastinator, so I can usually get stuff done. Don't sleep much though :)

  8. I'm happy with external deadlines, not so with self imposed ones. If I need to turn something in on Friday, I will do so, but I just can't get myself to stick to deadlines on anything which I need to motivate myself to do.
    I'm hoping it is just a consequence of a young mother without too much time, but I don't know....

  9. Hi Elspeth,

    Before I even scroll back up to read your post, I wanted to let you know I left a short answer to your pre-scheduling question back at my blog post for today. Now I'm off to read...

  10. Since I'm retired, 90% of my deadlines are self-inflicted. I'm either procrastinating or binge-writing...or promoting...or doing other stuff. I rarely have a deadline that can't be moved (or just scratched off the list because I don't want to do the task anymore). This is why I'm a novelist. I'd never make it as a magazine writer. Too many real deadlines.

  11. I give myself hard and firm deadlines when I am working on a MS. This forces me to get it done - writer's block & myriad frustrations or not.

    When other people (i.e. my publisher) have deadlines, I am usually early (not sure why), but perhaps that comes from the habits in the MS phase...?


  12. I am retired as well and I discovered long ago that self-imposed deadlines don't work for me. they only serve to stress me out, which is not conducive to writing. The calmer, more relaxed I am, the easier the writing flows.

  13. Elizabeth; Come over to the dark side! We have cookies...

    Jemi; I agree that deadlines add to the stress levels. Good for you that you can reach goals without them!

    Rayna; I so admire anyone who can write while looking after small children. I'm glad my children are older!

    Patricia; Firstly, thanks for the info!!! Secondly, I think I follow your pattern of nothing, nothing, binge write!

    Jill; My hat is off to you. Well, well done!

    Karen; I completely understand!


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