I just joined a book club. One of my main motivations to do so was because I already owned all the requisite books, but they’d just been sitting on my shelves, some for years. Life is busy, and I found many reasons and excuses to put off leisure time reading. But I just finished the first book for the first meeting, and it felt like a real accomplishment!
I know, I know. It’s just a book. But it still felt good. And I know that the reason I actually finished it was because I’d have to discuss it at the meeting. In other words, I had a deadline.
Sometimes, we need a little outside pressure to get things done, even if they’re things we want to do and love to do (like reading a fun book, or writing a fun book). As nearly all writers know, it’s very easy to say “I’ve got such a great story in my head! I’m going to write it someday!” And of course, someday never comes.
So don’t write someday. Write every day. Write on Tuesday. Write 500 words this Wednesday. Do it again on Thursday. Maybe on your lunch break. Keep doing that. Make it real. Make it banal. Make it a habit. By setting specific goals, you remove the misty someday from your work and you, well, get to work. Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it.
And here’s the second part of the plan: you make your deadline by making yourself accountable. How?
- Make your goal public.
- Post your daily word count on your blog or Twitter or wherever.
- Tell your writing group what your goal is, and ask them to follow up when the deadline hits.
- Don’t have a writing group? Find a writing buddy online through a group or a forum.
- Participate in NaNoWriMo or something like it.
Choose whatever method works, and do it. Remember, your accountability buddies don’t have to read what you write. They just have to be the voices saying “Send me that file so I can see your word count” or “Remember when you said you we’re submitting that piece by the 30th? Well, it’s the 30th. Where did you submit it?”
The public nature of this exchange should be enough to spur you to get moving on your project. (If you still blow deadlines, raise the stakes. Miss a deadline? Pay your writing buddy $5, pay for your group’s monthly coffee tab, etc. Make it hurt…within your means, of course.)
Working to a deadline can make us dreamy, creative types nervous. Don’t you have to wait for inspiration?
No. No, you don’t.
The Muse is not a fairy to be coaxed from the aether with manna or honey or freshly-squoze brambleberry juice. The Muse is a sly ferret to be chased down and force-fed espresso until she chatters out all her inspiration into your brain and your laptop. Remind your muse that no one gets paid until you publish, and the clock’s ticking.
The deadline is your ally. Use it.
Now go write.
Jocelyn Koehler writes science fiction and fantasy. Learn more and find links to her published work at her personal blog, Team Blood.