Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deadline Disharmony

I think I might have a problem with deadlines.

I’ve always been a procrastinator. My approach to deadlines in the past was to put the project off until the last possible moment and then get it done in a frantic blaze of activity. Deadlines were useful to me. They said this thing needs to be finished by this date, and gave me the incentive to get it done.

As I’ve grown older, my idea of what constitutes the last possible minute has been pushed further and further back until any notion of getting something finished in the remaining time is hopelessly optimistic. Cans of Red Bull might keep me awake through the night, but they can’t magically turn one hour into three.

For me, the real problem now is the corresponding loss in productivity. I missed my last monthly post for this blog because I was battling with a tricky story. I’d like to say it was because I was engaged in frenzied writing, but in reality it was more patient hacking at a computer screen, like trying to chisel out a sculpture made of words.

Distraction behaviour is the bane of productivity everywhere, especially nowadays with so many modern distractions. I find the best way to combat it is to have multiple projects on the go at any one time. If a story is proving troublesome, switch to another one and come back to the first with a clearer head. All the stories worth being completed will get completed and with, hopefully, a minimum of head-banging-against-a-wall frustration. It should be fun, after all, otherwise why write at all.

Throw in a deadline and it gets messed up. I can’t justify switching to another project because I need to be writing this specific story for this specific date. But sultry Distraction Behaviour is still lurking and waiting to lure me astray with her glittering temptations of internet, computer games, television, etc. This is the point where my productivity takes a nosedive.

Anyone writing short stories will encounter opportunities and deadlines in the form of anthologies, magazines, competitions and the like. In the past I used to be the kind of writer that dashed from one deadline to the next, hammering out stories to match whatever theme was required. I don’t think this suits me now. I think I need to be the other type: the type that writes what they feel like writing at the time and fires off whatever happens to be most appropriate from their folder of complete and near-complete story ideas.

M.E. Hydra


  1. Deadlines are always tricky things. You know you need to get it done, but the pressure makes you ignore the work until it's the night before everything's done and you're staring at 56 unedited pages.

  2. Writing should be fun. Thanks for reminding me of that, M.E. I'm struggling with wanting to want to write right now. I'm not worried about the deadline so much.

  3. Editing I don't mind. It's getting to 2 in the morning and realising I've only managed to write two lines the whole night. :)

    Mia, try switching to another idea for a short while. I find writing gets less fun when I get stuck in the mindset of having to work on a particular idea. Working on something else makes me feel like I'm engaged in naughty rebellion and gets the gears turning again.

  4. I can't agree with that method, M.E. I tried it but my mind does not work that way. Glad it works for you, though.

  5. I don't really have deadlines that aren't my own. Which can be good and bad. Since I have flexibility, and this is what I do for fun, I let myself write what I feel like writing. When I don't feel like writing, I outline, or I edit. I'm working on keeping my eye on the prize -- the prize being finishing a story and getting it out there so I can move on to the next. Working on it. :)