Deadlines can be disastrous.  August 2 for Congress.  September 1 for School.  December 25 for Naughty or Nice!  No matter what project is at hand, any deadline can be gracefully accomplished, or utter disaster.

I wish this post could be about the Great Debt Ceiling Feud of 2011.  I have plenty to say about that little shootin’ match going on in Washington this week.  But that’s for other blogs.  No, my own personal deadline has been on my mind lately.  You see, I promised myself that I would finish my book this summer.  And I’ve cobbled together all the bits I’ve written on my current WIP into a “master file” document.  It currently stands at 42,000 really messy words.  Am I pleased?  No!

I’m terrified.  And my writing has slowed even more than usual (and I’m not a high-output writer in the first place).  My personal deadline when school let out was to have a 90,000 word rough draft by September 1.  Realization: ain’t gonna happen.  Maybe I should run for Congress!  Wait, I’ve already said that’s a topic for other blogs..  So, I have to accept where I am (not good at that) and reframe my ambition (definitely not good at that!) or abandon the effort altogether (never).

But, as I fussed about this last night, I commented – “I remember when I first started writing full time, I started the day by ‘going to work.’  I wrote from nine until twelve every day.  Then I had lunch, and the afternoon was for the home-improvement projects in the house.”  And that realization, that long-buried memory, was very freeing. I’d had the discipline to write, and I’d been successful at completing a book and seeing it in print.

So today is calmer.  Once I post this, I’ll set a time limit for how long I’ll be at the keyboard today, working on my book.  Once that’s over, I won’t go back.  I won’t dwell.  I’ll certainly think about my writing.  I might scribble some notes.  But I will NOT obsess about that deadline.  It’s history.  I’m not going to make myself sick over it.

So – do you obsess over deadlines?  How do you handle the stress of these demons?  Avoid?  Negotiate?  Reframe?  Or embrace?

And remember:  Christmas is just 5 months away.  Start those shopping lists now!  Every minute counts.










About Susan Jeffery

I am loving the challenge (sometimes) of re-entering the contemporary romance market after a lifetime of raising two fantastic children (it never ends, btw). Just when I thought I was done with kids, I accepted a position as librarian to 900 boys in a Bronx private school. I'm a vintage published author, Harlequin American #206 Fair Game (1987). Winner of the Golden Heart, 1986. Currently exploring the possibility of indie publishing under my new pseudonym (see fresh name, above).


  1. I have to admit. I like deadlines. When I don’t have one, the work doesn’t get done. I push things off for the things that do have deadlines.

    My daughter has been hounding me to finish knitting her a sock monkey that I started last fall for Christmas. I told her the best thing to do is to give me a date to have it done by. Then it will be done.

    It’s just how I work.

    1. Hey, Katy, and that’s why my knitting is in the freezer for the second summer in a row — because I have other sweaters and there’s no deadline for this one! (never gonna start a sweater again, socks are soooo much quicker…)

  2. I watched last night — I think I dreamt about the debt ceiling afterward, not sure…but what’s going on in Washington is far scarier than the latest scene I’m working on where my nasty vampire kills two men unprepared for such an attack. I’m using a software called WriteWay (advertised in RWA) and have to say it’s keeping me at least organized where I know where I am at any given point and can go into any scene to either add or subtract from that part of the story. Deadlines are my own since I’ve gone the self-published route for this one. Yet, I think deadlines are good simply because it keeps you focused, your mind glued to what needs to be written next, and keeps the butt affixed to the seat in front of the computer or laptop and away from what’s going at at The View or Entertainment Tonight. (Okay, I’m a celebrity junkie.)
    Today my deadline is to finish scene seven in Chapter three and clean up the mess left by my vampire who is of course both charming and lethal.

    Marie aka Collette

    1. Excellent, thought! This is one of the things that truly scares me about the idea of self-publishing: that I’m in charge. Whoa, that is a deep, deep responsibility! I have so much respect for the people who make it happen.

  3. Deadlines are one of those things that can sometime(s) help me. Right now, my next deadline is far out, Oct. 1, but I’m trying to turn in a month early so I can have the release out sooner … self-imposed deadline? Let’s see if it works.

    And, why that magic number of 90,000 words? Certain publisher? Many take work(s) that are shorter. So I’d suggest writing until the story feels “done.”

    1. Thanks, Louisa, the 90K was because it is stuck in my head as a “magic number” for a single title. You’re right, tho – if it turns out an effective and fun story at less words, that’s good too. And it will be done!

  4. So far in my writing career, I’ve only had one true deadline situation come up and I drove myself so hard that I started feeling robotic. Lesson learned, deadline is good but so is mapping out a plan on how to achieve it in a healthy, non-insane way!

  5. A friend of mine (see blog a few days back on Who Is Your Muse?) suggested treating it like a job. We have to get up and write–Susan, you mentioned you did that too earlier on in your career.

    Just like a project at work, we have to work in order to meet those deadlines. We procrastinate or re-edit or stare at a blank screen for whatever reason but technically B.I.C.H.O.K. is the only way–just remember to take necessary breaks for stretching, exercising, eating and sleeping. I’m still working on this too.

    But no matter how much I say, I’m going to have my Christmas shopping done by November–yeah, right! 😛 LOL. And as far as Congress goes–hey, will we all be in the same boat? Will we have to rely on the barter system again? And will cash be king or only a pawn? How far down to the wire will they come and then bale the country out and everyone rejoices and everyone gets re-elected because they ‘saved the day’? Oh right–different blog. Sorry.

    1. Right, Loni. Which is why I keep CNN on all the time these days? Right, remember it’s a job AND a passion for telling the story. We can do this!

  6. I’ve been looking at writing deadlines the way I look at losing weight. Of course you have a grand total in mind when you are trying to lose weight. But if you focus on that, it might become too big in your mind and therefore overwhelming. So it’s better to make smaller weight loss goals. For example, when I lose three pounds I’ll get a pedicure. After that go for another three.

    With writing, my final goal is obviously to finish my MS. But I’m working on small weekly word counts now. Ever since I started that I’ve actually been more productive. 5,000 words in one week is much less daunting than 100K overall.

    Good luck – you can do it!!!! 😉

  7. Deadlines are intimidating for me because the closer I get to finishing a story, the more problems I find with it. I edit, edit again and re-edit for good measure–I think it’s a subconscious avoidance tactic for me like in college when I had the cleanest dorm room on campus to avoid studying for that Chemistry final. If you don’t finish, then you don’t have to write a synopsis, query letter, pitch or submit. 🙂
    During the writing process I tend to be far better at parceling out my time because I get caught up in the story. I just have to force myself to draw the line in the sand and say when the story is good enough, because there is no such thing as perfect. There are always things I could improve or reword. I have found, like Kerri, that weekly goals are more achievable for me. And I like goals instead of deadlines. Deadline sounds so solid and unmovable, whereas a goal is what I set out to achieve and I feel good about myself when I surpass it. So I set achievable goals for myself like to write or edit five scenes for the week then I can walk away from my computer feeling like I have accomplished something.

  8. I am a virgo, this means I love, love, love deadlines. Organization makes me feel safe. What can I say, I’m a really exciting girl. 🙂

    I try to forget about overall deadlines and focus on small achievable goals – I’ll have the plotting done by this date. I’ll write xxx words by Tuesday. You get the idea. Still the deadlines can get overwhelming and I just want to crawl under a rock and hide.

    1. Here’s the funny thing about deadlines: on Monday evening I knew I had a blog deadline. Tried a couple of ideas and went to bed.

      Got up Tuesday and sat myself down and said “you will have this posted by 9 o’clock.” Danged if it didn’t happen. It’s happened every time my turn comes up for this. Drag feet, drag feet, and when I’m up against the clock, it’s there. The post for what “What is it Worth to You?” was an idea I had in the car when I was running an errand that morning. Turned the car around, got home and wrote the article in 30 minutes. Go figure.

      How come this doesn’t happen more?

    1. I don’t blame you, Toni, I hate them. Which might be why I’m not even going to make my self-imposed summer deadline.

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