All deadlines are not created equal
by Felicia Cameron Leger
I’m a wait ’til the last minute kind of gal. All through college I did my best studying the night before the final, burning the midnight oil in the library, long after the more disciplined students had closed their books and gone home to bed. Even though research tells us it’s the least productive way to learn, I repeatedly found myself trying to cram half a semester’s worth of material into my brain at three A.M. But somehow it worked for me. After staying up all night, I would walk into the classroom with all those fresh facts bouncing around in my head and end up with a decent grade on the test.
Discovering that I work well under pressure has been both a blessing and a curse: A blessing because it helps me get things done. A curse because it’s turned me into a hopeless procrastinator.
I’ve tried doing things the sensible way, I really have. But I’ve found that no matter how much time I have to complete a project, I can’t seem to finish early. For me, more time just means more opportunity to fuss with something – to dissect it and enhance it and second-guess it until someone finally makes me stop. Most of the time I end up going back to the idea I started out with in the first place. So, if I get the same result whether I spend ten hours on a project or two, can you blame me for waiting until the last minute?
For a lot of us, there’s nothing like the beauty of a looming deadline to get the ol’ rear in gear. But what if you want to get something accomplished and you don’t have someone hanging a deadline over your head? You self-impose one, right? You say something like this: By the end of this month I will finally get my house organized and get rid of all the stuff I don’t need.
Want to know why that will never happen? Because we procrastinators don’t take our own deadlines seriously. If we really want to accomplish something, we need to be accountable to someone else. So if you’re trying to get your place organized, arrange for some out-of-town house guests. Nothing will get you hopping faster than the prospect of your Mary Poppins mother-in-law finding you living in a pigsty.
For writers, deadlines are so frequently self-imposed that we can end up chasing our tails indefinitely.
Unless we’re fortunate enough to have a publisher or production company waiting to see our pages, we have to get more imaginative about setting deadlines outside ourselves. And we have to make sure the stakes are high, so we won’t flake.
One way to do that is to shell out some cash for a conference. I recently registered for a writer’s conference that gave me two concrete deadlines: It promises me one-on-one time with the publishers, editors and agents in attendance if I submit a book proposal by October 17th and if I have a completed manuscript by October 24th. If I don’t meet those two deadlines, I’ll have wasted both the opportunity and my money. And for someone writing her first full-length novel, that’s pretty good incentive.
My October deadlines are coming up fast. It’s gonna be tight, but even if I have to pull a few all-nighters, I’m determined to make it. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and I’d love to hear about yours.
If you have a creative way of keeping on track with your projects, writing or otherwise, tell me about it in a comment below.
But after you do, get back to work!Tags: deadlines, Felicia Cameron Leger, Get back to work, Hollywood, Novelist, Procrastination, Writer