Sunday, 17 January 2010

(Slightly Belated) Coffee Break

Deadlines are part of every writer’s life. Some are self-imposed (‘I will finish the chapter by the end of the week!’ or even ‘I’m going to write a 50,000 word novel in November!’), some are set by external events (‘I have to finish this before Christmas…’), but once you get that elusive publication deal they are set by important agents and editors (Can you get it to me by the end of April, please?’ ‘Oh yes, that’s months away!’). Everyone misses deadlines sometimes, with procrastination and good excuses vying for culpability. Douglas Adams liked “the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” - something I think most of us can relate to, me possibly more than most. You know a deadline is approaching, you can see it coming for months, and yet suddenly, oops! It’s gone, and you’re left wondering where all the time went.

Sometimes, they just creep up on you, and you’re not really sure what happened until afterwards (this may be the most appropriate example for me most of the time… Sorry about that, chaps!). Other times you spend so much time worrying and preparing for them that you’re exhausted even before they happen.

So, how do you cope with deadlines? And what do you do when you miss them?

I try to carry on as normal, hoping that no-one noticed.


Leatherdykeuk said...

Terry Pratchett loves deadlines. He loves the whooshing noise they make as they go past.

Seriously, I work better to deadlines. I procrastinate less.

JJ Beattie said...

I prefer to work to a deadline too. I try really hard not to miss them because I'm pathalogically afraid of being thought of as unprofessional.

I love the Terry Pratchett quote; it's just brilliant.

Debs said...

I find I work much better to a deadline, as I think it keeps me more focused.

Most of the time.

Denise said...

My deadlines are of the self imposed variety, but I seem to have ducked out of making any for quite a while! When I have a fixed one, like sending in work for a writers conference, I do work a lot harder to meet it. My own deadlines I can often rationalise away, convincing myself it's a good thing I haven't done it because it means it won't be rushed...

This might be the prod I needed to start setting some more fixed ones.

Rowan Coleman said...

hahahahahahahahahahahhaahahahahhahaahahahahahha laughs hysterically. And then just concerntrate on one thing at a time, because you can only do what you can do.

HelenMHunt said...

Most of the work I do doesn't have an actual deadline, so I do have to impose some for myself.

With articles, as soon as an editor has said yes to a pitch I do try to get the article done as quickly as possible as I think it's more professional. So that becomes a guilt/angst-induced deadline.

I do have short story deadlines for the online writing group I belong to - one a fortnight. But there is no deadline for editing and submitting them to magazines, so that has to be self-imposed as well.

One of the reasons my novel has taken so long is that it has had no deadline at all. However, there is now someone waiting to look at the synopsis and first three chapters. That deadline isn't set in stone, it's more like 'don't leave it so long that it becomes embarassing'.

I always feel a bit of a dilemma between getting short pieces subbed in order to make some money now, and working on the novel in order to get where I want to be long term.

There isn't any answer to this, so I just end up juggling it all around the day job and getting stressed.

I suspect I need better organisational skills.

ChrisH said...

Hmm, interesting - I HATE having a deadline hanging over me; it makes feel very panicking, but I seem to produce my best work in that state. There must be a better way of doing business!

Anonymous said...

I have to work to deadlines, otherwise the job stands a good chance of not getting done. I'm also into project methodology, which means I record all the time I spend on projects. Without these data it would be difficult to analyse what went wrong when I miss a deadline.

Now I'm going to have a nice strong coffee. Better late than never, right?

sheepish said...

I think I need deadlines to force me into activity sometimes. Unfortunately self imposed ones don't often work work for me so I need other means to make me buckle down. Just haven't found them yet this year!!!

LilyS said...

I would be useless without them yet I really hate them! I have a similar approach. Think I have ages and then next minute you know I have left it too late and I get in a tizz. I am trying to be good lately though and at least make a start on something.