Deadlines are a very powerful motivator. Take this blog, for example. If I weren’t contractually obligated to post here every other Tuesday, I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong- I like writing and I’m grateful that you’re reading, but it probably wouldn’t get done in time. Because I have a deadline, I write a blog post every other week. It gets done.
The downside of this is that sometimes my posts end up being something short of my very best work. I have some degree of perfectionist tendencies, and it’s hard for me to post something that I feel falls short of my very best. The reality, though, is that I have a limited number of hours to spend on my writing. It’s hard to find the correct balance between drafting my current WIP, reading books from my WIP’s genre, revising my first book, researching agents, querying, attending conferences, critiquing other writers’ work, building an online presence, reading books or blogs about writing, etc.
Hence the deadlines. I’m most likely to be working on whatever absolutely needs to be done next. If I create a deadline for my current WIP (like 3,000 words this week) and tell myself that it’s not negotiable, I will probably make the sacrifices necessary to get 3,000 words written.
But will it be my best work? Probably not. Does that matter? Yes, because nobody (including me) wants to read anything less. No, because at least I have words on the page and I have something more than a blank canvas to work with.
In the end, deadlines lead to progress, which makes them invaluable to me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got about 2,500 more words to write…
What about you? Are you more productive with deadlines, or just more stressed? Are deadlines worth the possible downsides (sub-par work, disappointment and discouragement when deadlines aren’t met, etc.)?
6 thoughts on “The Downside of Deadlines”
I like deadlines and I make them for myself all the time for everything. But I thrive on them. I'm a little bit of a nerd that way…
I'd have to say that deadlines are what make me willing to sacrifice that time – for me, even if I write crappily to meet a word count, it's still better than the emptiness that would have been had I not gone ahead and forced myself to do it.
You got a contract?! I got gypped!
Without deadlines, I'd likely get nothing done. Take summers (when I'm not teaching a summer class). I have the best intentions, but it usually goes all to heck.
But, on the other hand, in grad school, we all wrote a paper for one of my Shakespeare classes. Those of us who got our papers published then took a class from this professor for a whole semester just to rework that article. This made me hate the article by the end of the semester, of course, but boy was it polished! The day after it was published, I read it online, and found a mistake. I think everything could always be improved. We just have to be done at some point. Deadlines help us do that.
Oh, and I never believe myself when I give myself deadlines. I'm terrible that way.
Excellent point, Joseph.
Joy, I can't believe you didn't get a contract! Mine was very, very lucrative. 🙂
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