Friday, May 11, 2012

Deadly Deadlines (Part 1)

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

Sometimes deadlines can be good for writing - that last minute adrenaline rush can get your creative juices flowing better than any amount of free time.

But sometimes deadlines can freeze your mind, stifle your creative process, tighten the rope around the neck of your inspiration, put your muse on the chopping block... you get the picture.

I tend to work better with some semblance of a deadline. I need endgoals, I need to see the finished product, so it's easier for me to have something tangible to work towards.

But let's face it, deadlines can be stressful.

I mean, deadlines are something we use in writing to up the stakes for our characters. Think the characters don't have enough problems, or there just isn't enough conflict? Eh, throw in a ticking time bomb. It worked for 24.

I have different ways of coping with deadlines. 

Checklists, planning ahead, setting a timer. These sometimes seem to work for me. But sometimes it takes the very last minute to come up with inspiration for a deadline.

For example, in my current online Rhetoric class I had to write a speech over the weekend and deliver it Monday morning. It was a very short speech - about 2-3 minutes long. I had specific restraints I had to follow, but the topic could be whatever I wanted.

My mind was frozen.

Finally, I wrote a mediocre, second-class speech on Saturday that I thought would have to do unless I came up with something better. I wasn't pleased with it at all, but I couldn't think of anything else to write.

My class is at 8:00 in the morning since I'm in Pacific time. I usually get up early so I can be awake for the class, but that morning I woke up at 7:00. I had been dreaming about the speech, but when I opened my eyes a flash of inspiration came to me.

I had an idea for a much better speech - but I only had an hour before class started.

So I got out of bed, hurriedly turned on the computer, and typed as fast as I could. I ended up finishing the speech 15 minutes before class started. I submitted the outline, rehearsed it a couple of times, and then entered the online class and gave the speech.

I got an A+.

As nice as that was, I really would rather not have had to come that close. But sometimes you need to disconnect your mind from the task at hand in order to give it a break.

Next Friday I'll talk about different ways to do that.

And I want to hear your thoughts, as well.

What do you think about deadlines? Are deadlines generally helpful or hurtful? Do you have ways to trick yourself into completing a deadline? Do you have any stories about close calls with deadlines that you'd like to share?

Leave me a comment with your answer, and I'll feature it next Friday in Part 2 of this series.

So, tell me:

How do you cope with deadlines?


  1. Deadlines. Just the word itself has a "deadly" connotation.

    In college, I always produced my best work under the pressure of a deadline. I often waited until the last minute, but usually came out with the "A."

    Now, with writing my blog, I only write when I have an idea. Sometimes that is every day, sometimes twice/ day, sometimes it is only once/ week. The A to Z Challenge was tricky for me because I did not like that added pressure of having to be "on" and "produce" every day. It is one thing to want to write every day (for yourself), quite another to be forced to (even if it is a voluntary contest).

    Not sure if that answered your question........


  2. Generally speaking, I find that most people won't do anything without a deadline. That's why almost everyone is rushing to get things done at the last minute. Like taxes.
    I work with a lot of self-imposed deadlines. It keeps me moving.

  3. When confronted with deadlines, I become amazingly calm and then divide and conquer. It's almost like I become another person. Weird, I know.

  4. Deadlines are invaluable. They are also far more trouble than they're worth. The majority of people will, if given a deadline, wait until that red-marked spot on their calendar is looming the very next day. This induces a panic-driven mass production that leaves most offenders exhausted and too worn out to even contemplate getting anything else accomplished.

    Unfortunately, I fall into this category, as well.

    If you have a good head on your shoulders and can plan mini-goals on the way to that deadline, it's a fantastic tool. If not, it's an endless cycle of avoidance, pain, and utter exhaustion. Better to just cultivate a routine and the self-will to accomplish it each day (I'm looking at you, self.)



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