June 18th, 2013 | by Beth Barany
In today’s post, author Faith Van Horne discusses the importance and power of writing deadlines. Don’t procrastinate! Read her article and get writing!
One of the greatest barriers I face in producing words is procrastination. After all, there’s so much work I need to do before I just start dumping words on paper, right? I mean, there’s research. Then, of course, developing character sketches and working out my story arc. And research is never really done, is it? I’d better dither around and spend several more days making sure I’m solid on exactly how many berths would have been present in a Pullman sleeper in 1926 (yes, I actually did spend much more time stuck on this fact than any human should).
If I allowed myself, I could easily waste a lifetime on trivialities before I completed a short story. Don’t get me wrong, I do waste a lot of time. But I’ve discovered a tool that, when I use it, produces powerful results. I’m talking about the swaying pull of the deadline.
Smart writers use deadlines all the time to stay on track. Sometimes a deadline uses a short time frame to force a seemingly insane amount of simple word production (Nanowrimo, I’m looking at you). But less intense deadlines can be useful as well. For example, the pressure to produce a blog topic by a certain date. *Ahem.*
But deadlines aren’t just for breaking through barriers in writing. They work great for fitness goals as well. After all, humans are not, by their nature, long-term actors. Forty-five minutes on a treadmill might strengthen my heart and lungs if I engage in it continuously. But a tube of cookie dough and reruns of Night Court are gratifying right now. (Note: I wrote last month about finding a physical activity that compels you, but even then it can be hard to sustain passion for it over a long term.)
However, if I’ve agreed to run a 5K in six weeks, and my family will be watching and my friends will be pressuring me to keep up alongside them, that treadmill’s going to sound like a pretty good idea.
One of my favorite new physical challenges is the Warrior Dash. I see this as sort of the physical fitness equivalent of Nanowrimo, in that the obstacles are seemingly impossible, and it looks insane at first. But the friends I’ve known who have competed say it’s a blast, and they loved training for it. Trekking through mud, hauling yourself over walls and under barbed-wire trenches. Talk about motivation to work hard!
I’ve recently locked down a writing and a fitness deadline motivator. I just joined a new writer’s group, for which I have to have a polished section of my novel ready for a workshop next month. And I’m signing up to participate in a demo for my karate class, probably this fall. I’ll post my progress on both these goals on my blog, Scribatious.
I’d love to hear how deadlines have motivated you in both your fitness and writing goals. Has a deadline ever helped you break through a barrier that you thought had beaten you? Let me know in the comments.
Faith Van Horne is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Slideways. Her collection of offbeat horror stories, Super Sargasso, is now available. She is currently working on another novel. In her free time, she practices karate, and even helps teach it a little. She also blogs at Scribatious (faithvanhorne.