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12 Steps of a Successful Writer: Set Your Deadlines

They are the affirmation that you must put a deadline on something important in order to achieve your goals. If you are a writer, then you know you should have a deadline with whatever you are writing.

Your mind loves a challenge. It will rise to the occasion with a specific deadline tacked onto anything you want to accomplish.

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Now, I know you want to run away screaming, pulling out your hair and hissing like a cat being tossed into a bath, but you don't have to feel this way.

Let's look at the common fears associated with deadlines and defuse them one by one. My hope is once you get to the end of this article, you'll see deadlines in a different light and use them to make your life, and your writing, that much better.

Aren't Deadlines Set in Stone?

This is an understandable fear to have, and one that carries over with us from the time we we're in school as little pups. Remember these?

If you didn't finish your homework by a specific date, you failed.

If you didn't finish your quiz or test by a specific time, you failed.

If you didn't finish submit your college inquiries on time, you failed.

If you didn't eat all of that pie before Mom gets home, you failed.

Well, all right, the last one wasn't really a failure (except for your poor tummy, stop eating all that pie!) , but that's what it's like to live in the shadow of deadlines. You fear them because they shine the light of inadequacy on you.

However, as a writer, the only deadline to reach is the one you place on yourself first. This might not completely apply to freelance writing, but it's still something you must keep in mind:

You are only accountable for yourself.

No one else is holding your life on the line because you didn't finish one-thousand words today. No one has a gun to your head, ready to pull the trigger because you didn't do that character development piece.

The only person doing this to yourself is you. Your fear is pushing you away from completing these for one reason or another. It is time to accept that you are in full control of your destiny and you'll have no other choice but to keep this going because:

No one will show up and save you.

What if I have to Move My Deadline?

I'll be honest with you, this sounds silly, but it is a huge fear many people have. If you move the deadline, you'll consider yourself a failure and wonder why you live and then eat all of the ice cream in the freezer.

When I said you had to be accountable for yourself, I didn't mean beating yourself up over it (nor did I say you had to eat all the ice cream either) . While deadlines in work or school can end careers, this isn't so for you as a writer.

What happens when you reach the deadline and you don't have something accomplished?

Move the deadline.

That's it, that's all. You accept you might have overestimated what you set out to accomplish, pick another date that should work, and then get back to work at making that deadline happen.

What happens when you fail to reach the next deadline?

Move the deadline again.

See? Super simple. Deadlines aren't a vicious cobra ready to strike you with poisonous fangs. They are a marker to see how far along you can get before you must change your priorities again. You are in control of this, the deadlines aren't in control of you.

I Can't Find a Reasonable Way to Measure Deadlines

This is another acceptable fear to have. We often overestimate what we can do in a shorter timeframe and vastly underestimate what we can do with the long-term picture. There are a few easy steps to make sure you have reasonable deadlines:

Break the goal into smaller chunks:While it might be admirable to finish a novel in one day without sleeping, eating, and using a bucket for the toilet, it is a hard goal to accomplish. Instead, break this down into chapters, scenes, or whatever makes you the most comfortable. Then, take these moments and assign individual deadlines to them.

Give yourself another week:Sometimes it takes a little longer than expected to do something due to emergencies, tragedies, and even just normal everyday life events. When you are ready to set a deadline, give yourself an extra week to accomplish it. Even if you do it earlier than expected, you will still feel accomplished because of it.

Build momentum:This one is always good when you are frustrated and can't understand why you aren't making any progress. Do some simple things, either around the house or with your novel/article/blog post and complete them as soon as possible. Give yourself an hour to clean the house, or an hour to write up and edit a small chunk of your project. When you get this done, jump into something else. Do the same thing with the next project. When you've finished these after a few hours, look back and feel yourself swell with pride over your accomplishments.

Deadlines Are Too Hard

This is why you must push yourself. Give yourself a deadline that is a mix between reasonable and difficult to obtain. If too many of them are too easy, you'll never gain the benefit of doing them in the first place. If they are too difficult, you'll never accomplish anything and go back to not setting deadlines at all.

Use your momentum, your ability to break down the project into sections, and keep a log of what you can and can't accomplish. Refer to it whenever you have (or haven't) completed something and you can assess what your real problem is in completing these things.

When you do this, you'll be more active, present, and aware of what needs to be finished and what can be put off for another hour, day, or even week.

Because why would you want to lose sleep thinking about what you aren't doing?

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Posted in Business Post Date 05/07/2018


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