Thursday, April 3, 2014


 “But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.”—Robert Frost.

It doesn't have to be November for you to set concrete goals for your writing. NaNoWriMo is great and all, but if you only put pressure on yourself one month out of the year to get things done, you're missing out. Writing is hard work—learning to write is even harder—and it's always easier not to write instead, to put it off, to day dream about your characters a little more, to just watch something on the Internet. Even when you are working regularly, after struggling to get down 300 words in an hour or two, its always easier to wipe your brow and say, “enough for today,” than to keep going.

Is it enough? Or are you dragging your feet?

Try this: set a deadline for your project, and stick to it.

Get rid of the guess work and the excuses, hold your feet to the fire, and write. Don't set some psychotic deadline like writing a novel in a week. You'll kill yourself trying to reach it, you won't make it by half, and then you'll feel terrible. Plan an obtainable goal, and then strive for it. You'll write more than usual and you're writing will be better, because you'll have to cut down on distractions and focus when you're working or else you won't reach your deadline. You'll also feel better about the whole process when you do reach that deadline, because not only will you have a finished draft, but you'll have kept your promise to yourself. Even if you do go into overtime, if you've planned appropriately, it shouldn't be by much. Anyway, life happens. If you've been working hard to reach your goal, you'll know it, and it won't bother you.

But maybe you think that kind of pressure would stifle you. Deadline? The very word sounds like it kills creativity. No, not for you, you're an artist, a flower blooming in the moonlight, you need time to be inspired. Okay. Keep doing what you're doing if it's working for you. Is it working for you?

Set goals big and small. Make a deadline to write a poem by midnight every day this weekend, or a short story by Monday. If you have no idea how long it would take you to write a novel, or if you even could do such a thing, set a deadline for 50 pages. If you estimate you can write two pages a day, roughly 500 words double spaced, that's about a month of work to reach your goal. Keep track of your progress, and if in a month you find yourself woefully behind schedule, reassess. Have you worked earnestly enough? Have you gotten too bogged down in minute details? Maybe you should start with a smaller project. Or maybe a month is simply too little time right now.

Calibrate a new deadline and nail it to the wall over your desk. Be sure its a nail, though, that way the you who sits down to write later will get the point. I don't recommend escalating to writing the date in blood. Blood draws flies, and you'll have to paint over it each time. I recommend even less writing it in your own blood. Stick to the more working class intimidations of . . . you know what, never mind. I may be a little punch drunk since I recently met my own deadline of April 1st to finish rewriting a novel. Just Try it.

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