I’ve been contemplating time, and how I always need more. Don’t we all? The words “I’m bored” never even occur to me, because I always have something going on, even if it’s just vegging out and knitting a scarf (valuable recharging time, that is) . It’s almost the end of the year and I have a stack of things I’d like to finish before the ball drops on Times Square. It’s an arbitrary deadline. But this business runs on deadlines. Most of mine are self-imposed.
I’m a big fan of self-imposed deadlines at the earliest stages of a writing career. First off, they prepare writers for externally imposed deadlines — you know you can hit that contracted deadline because you’ve already hit your own. Second, they mean you get stuff done.
You have to learn to measure your own productivity. It’s important to know how much you can do in a day, so you know how long it will take you to complete a project. If you learn to gauge the length of projects before you start, you can judge how much time you need. This is how the pros work. It sounds so mercenary, doesn’t it? Is there any room for art amidst deadlines? Because I still like to think I’m doing art, even with the deadlines. Write good books — that’s the goal. If I don’t do that, I won’t have a career. Of course I think it’s possible, I pretty much have to since that’s how I do things. But I know this is how you have to work if you want to make a living at this gig.
Embrace the march of time. Embrace deadlines. Time and deadlines are your friends. “The end of the year” is only one possible deadline. Go ahead, pick a deadline.
- Your birthday
- A loved one’s birthday
- Any holiday
- Tax day
- The end of the month, or the start of the following month. Or heck, any day of the month. The tenth, let’s say, if the end of the month doesn’t work .
- The release date of an anticipated movie, because if you finish your thing you can go see it without guilt.
- Vacations make marvelous deadlines — the chance to go on a trip without worrying about a that thing you’ve spent every waking moment thinking about for the last three months is hugely motivating.
- NaNoWriMo is built on deadlines. (How many of you are doing NaNoWriMo, hmmmm? How’s that going?) In that case, your deadline is the end of the month.
Deadlines are the thing that will help your career move forward, because they are the things that say “You have to finish this, you have to send this off, you have to work.” Otherwise, we’d sit around being bored.