Deadlines, all the time. Sort of, but mostly self-imposed. I will write 500 words before midnight tonight. I will finish this damn story on Saturday. Things like that. They always sound great when I write them down. They’re achievable, do-able even, and I know for a fact that I can do this.

Until the deadline starts to taste like a dead fish in my mouth–dead because I no longer want to finish the story, and fishy because I’m not entirely sure why I set such a ridiculous goal to begin with. Lost, unsure, wanting to do something and utterly unable to do shit. That’s what it feels like for me near the end of a deadline.

Deadlines and me have a long history together. In high school I kept to my deadlines pretty well, until the night before the deadline and I rushed to complete my homework, much to my parents’ grief. In college, same thing. I refused to touch my term papers until the week before they were due. My senior year of college was defined by lousy crap papers I turned in, and thanks only to my wild writing talent still passed with magna cum laude.

Yes, deadlines cause me a great deal of panic and anxiety, even the self-imposed ones. And really, missing a self-imposed deadline does nothing but increase said anxiety, and only rarely gets the project finished in a timely manner. I find outside deadlines to be the best for me, like NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy, but even those only help when I tell my friends and family about my month’s project. That way I can be honest when I tell them, yes, I finished what I set out to do.

Being an indie writer, I deal mostly with the self-imposed deadline. Dean Wesley Smith has the best advice about self-imposed deadlines. Wish I could find the exact essay and quote from Smith’s blog, but he says something to the effect of: a deadline you set yourself is artificial; when you break it stop crying, get in your chair, and type.

No different than any other business nobody cares about your procrastination techniques, the multiple deadlines you already juggle, or the cool guitar chord progression you have to play over and over. What matters is delivery, even the last minute seat-of-your-pants and not-a-minute-too-late kind of delivery. Sighs of relief are never more sweet with a deadline accomplished, and you never feel more professional than when you make the deadline.


Despite being mostly written a week early, this blog essay was posted at the last minute for the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. To read more essays written by the folks of Forward Motion, be sure to check out the MGR home page.

2 thoughts on “Deadlines: Love AND Hate

  1. If we can’t make the self-imposed deadlines, how are we supposed to meet the real ones? Anxiety is okay — it’s a sign you have a realistic fear of those deadlines. 🙂

    I do like the 500 words deadline. I have a similar one myself. Is yours daily?

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