I’m good with work deadlines — always have been. Give me an executive who needs a twenty-minute presentation for a meeting next week and I can hit the outline, first draft, second draft, and polish dates while making sure the Power Point guru gets what she needs as well.
But giving myself my own deadlines on things I’m writing for possible publication? Those I blow right past, again and again. I could probably spend a lot of time in therapy trying to understand this, but I seek help elsewhere: I’m a sucker for tools, crutches, pokes — anything that will push me to write, keep me in my chair tapping those keys.
I did NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — in 2009, which was the major kickoff to the manuscript I’m now sending out to agents. That deadline (50,000 words in 30 days) I did take seriously — because it has lots of carrots and sticks: you sign up for the month, upload your words every day, and see exactly how far away you are from hitting 50,000 words, how many words you have to write each day to get there, and how you are doing in relation to other people. There are graphs, widgets, cartoons, pep talks, and live “write-ins” at coffee shops.
For some reason, I took NaNoWriMo very seriously and got results (a certificate. And a big chunk of a novel). If you haven’t tried it, put it on your calendar for this year.
I can’t say that everything I produced that November went into the novel, or even most of it, but it was a heap of words. It showed me how much effort goes into writing, and at the same time helped set my mind free to just write, let it pour out, and worry about editing, sense, and all that other stuff later.
Now what I need is NaNoWriMo every month.