No matter how much you’d like to avoid them, writing deadlines are a huge part of your life. This is true for you even if theoretically you have no deadlines, because you only work on your own projects. I’ve been working with a Team Up group of students who all have challenges with deadlines.
Over the years, I’ve made my peace with them, and have a workflow in place. Once you know exactly what you need to do to meet deadlines, your life will be easier.
Meeting writing deadlines is a decision: make it now
For my first few years as a commercial writer, I hoped that I would be able to meet my deadlines. Finally — a few annoyed clients later — I realized that hope wasn’t enough. I had to make a decision. Did I want to deal with a lot of stress? Writing can be very stressful. I didn’t want to deal with the additional stress of “hoping.”
So I made a decision. I decided that baring fire, flood and acts of god, I would meet every deadline I set. No exceptions. Once I made that decision, I was immediately less stressed because I avoided taking on projects which were wrong for me — if I found them boring, or if I didn’t want to research the topic.
Here are some tips which I’ve shared with my students; I hope that they will help you with your deadlines too.
1. Choose your deadline, and make a list of tasks (even if it’s your own project)
Make a list of everything you need to do for a project:
- Outline the project, covering everything in the brief (if the project is for someone else);
- (If the project is for someone else) SEND THE CLIENT YOUR CLIENT AGREEMENT, without fail. And yes — I’m shouting. Never omit this, no matter how short the project, or how well you know the client;
- Research. Set a timer when you research online. Know what you need, before you go online. Visiting a library, or using your own print books? Read the Table of Contents, and learn to skim read. Make short notes (use a mind map);
- Commission sub-contractors to line up images etc.
- Revise, and send to the client for his review.
One thing: make a task list and set a deadline for your own projects too.
Estimate how long everything on the list will take.
Set the deadline.
Are you SURE you can meet it? Give yourself a couple of days of wiggle room, if you’re a newish writer.
2. Unsure about a project or a client? Decline the project (declining avoids hassles)
Please pay attention to this tip — to meet writing deadlines consistently, minimize stress.
It’s essential that you avoid taking on projects which:
- You don’t want to do;
- The client is difficult;
- The client hasn’t paid a deposit.
Over the years, when people waved money at me, I had the bad habit of saying YES! to everything. It made my life immensely stressful. Finally I came to my senses, and decided that no matter how enticing the money, my health was more important.
Regarding clients who give you a “no!” feeling, or who take forever to get back to you on some point or other. RUN! Run as fast as you can. The same thing applies as above — you don’t need this kind of stress.
And if the client quibbles about paying a deposit? That’s fine. Wave him bye-bye very politely. Chasing no-paying or slow-paying clients is a royal pain in rear, and you don’t need that stress in your life.
3. Write: use a word counting app (Write or Die works for me)
In the middle of last year, I started to use the Write or Die app. It was amazing — I got so much done, I was thrilled.
Then I stopped using it. Big mistake. My productivity went right down. I seemed to be working hard, but I was getting much less done.
Obviously, I need a trainer with a whip to get myself writing. And here’s the thing. Oddly enough, when I write using Write or Die, my writing is better, and needs less editing, than when I take my own sweet time. (We’ve talked about how writing faster improves your writing.)
There are other word counting apps — I’ve found that Write or Die works for me; check out several to find the best for you. They definitely help you to keep your deadlines.
4. When switching projects, give yourself a goal, and clear your mind
I tend to work on around five to ten projects at any one time. This is stressful if one project is stuck, or if an interviewee drops out.
Although I meditate every morning, meditation wasn’t keeping me as relaxed and calm as I needed to be. Enter: mini meditations. When I take a couple of minutes to walk around, and breathe in between projects, I get more done.
Essential: when taking breaks, avoid Facebook and the like. Listen to relaxing music by all means, but avoid entertainments — and email. Read your email when your writing session is done.
5. Forget perfectionism: when a project is done, send it to the client
I LOVE revision. I can always think of a half-dozen ways to restructure a project, reword it, or add material. Whether you love or hate revision, avoid doing major overhauls of a project. Send it to your client once it’s done — you may find, as I occasionally have, that the client wants you to change something major, so it’s pointless polishing your amazing prose until he takes a look.
Similarly, if you’re self-publishing. When your ebook is done, do a mini-revision, then send it to your beta readers, and go on with your next book.
Meeting your writing deadlines consistently avoids stress — and helps you to increase your income too
When you know that you’ll meet your deadlines it decreases stress, and increases your confidence. Over the years, I’ve found that life is much easier and more fun when I have a non-negotiable deal with myself to meet deadlines.
I hope that these tips work for you. Got a great tip for deadlines? Please share it in the comments.
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