In a world where I make my own, deadlines can be challenging. I find it tempting to waste time, for instance, looking up the etymology of a word like ‘deadline’ – and then worrying whether anyone will even care. (If you do, even remotely, the term was first used to indicate the line near the edge of a printing plate, beyond which the words were cut off, or dead).
With clients, deadlines are easy. You submit your editing so you can get your work back asap. With my own writing, deadlines are essential. I could edit forever without a deadline. Tinker, tweak and improve until it is perfect. Which it never is., I get
I need deadlines just to get to the editing phase. I could spend all my time preparing to write – researching, note-taking, building arguments with a concept map. Anything besides facing the screen and committing to words! But then suddenly they come, and I write, and it feels great! Like going for a run – the hardest part is getting your shoes on and heading out the door.
And like going for a run, it helps to simply plan it into your day. At 9am, I will write/run for an hour, no ifs, ands or buts. Somehow it isn’t always that easy.
1. Turn off the internet. Make sure your space is comfortable and without too many distractions. For some, silence can be distracting – find a balance that works for you.
2. The concept map is a great place to start. It gives you content to begin typing into the computer. This gets you writing physically, and your heart and head soon follow.
3. Try not to get distracted by rewriting or editing until you’ve finished a rough draft. Don’t get stuck on a particular paragraph or section – just move on to writing the next bit.
4. If you are having trouble getting something onto the page, try writing about what is distracting you (stress, or your feelings of inadequacy). Eventually, and maybe sooner than you think, you will start writing about the topic at hand.
5. Know that writing is hard work! Our bodies are not meant to sit and write for longer than 45 – 90 minutes at a time. Laurie Waye suggests that, for writing, “three times a day, for forty-five minutes at a time, is a reasonable goal” (17). No matter your mood, you can handle this size of a writing task.
6. Reward yourself for completing chunks of writing time: if I write for an hour, I can get a coffee or check my Facebook. Or switch gears after an hour to complete a different task (reading, playing with your concept map). You could also try writing for kittens if you think that might help, though I can’t promise you won’t find it counter-productive.
7. Forget about being perfect. Aim to create something imperfect which can be edited (by yourself or others) after your draft deadline. I’ll write more on self-editing later.
What do you do to get writing?