My response to the pressure that deadlines create? Complete and total shutdown. I don’t deal well with anxiety, stress, overwhelming goals or odds, or pressure. I used to believe I worked better under pressure, but I think that’s just something I told myself after the fact because I had come up against a hard deadline that left me no wiggle room and I had finally overcame the inertia holding me back and got down to business. In a limited sense, I do work better under pressure—because outside pressure can actually make me work whereas I might not work otherwise. As far as quality of that work, well, there’s just no way to know. Doing something is better than doing nothing in most cases, so there you go.
The problem with writing as a career is that there are almost no hard deadlines. Even when something has been promised to a publisher, most writers know they can ask for an extension if they ask soon enough. How hard you consider a publisher’s deadline will greatly depend on how concerned you are with your reputation and how important your self-image as a promise-keeper is to you.
I don’t know how I’d handle it, to be honest, but I have this fear that if I weren’t my own publisher, I’d be in trouble. I generally keep promises, if I see the sense in it and if I care about the person to whom I made the promise, but if I can rationalize it away, then all bets are off. I rarely bend over backwards to make most other people’s lives easier than my own.
I hope this is the last post I ever write about this topic, because I’ve come to a realization today. I have to stop setting personal deadlines and goals and start focusing on just doing the work day in and day out. Consistency is going to be key for me, because I’m not looking for goals: I’m looking for a way of life. At this moment in time, I want my fiction to be the way I earn my living until the day I die. I’m not saying that’ll never change, because I’d like to live a long time and have a long life and maybe that’ll mean I come up on the day when I’m ready for something different. But that’s not today, and I doubt it’ll be next week or next year.
I want to get up each day and I want to write. Some days it’s obvious I’ll write more than others, but overall, I want to write every day and I want a routine that makes it easy to do.
I can’t keep stressing over the goals that I’m not even supposed to be worried about right now, because I’ve got the schedule. The schedule is not working well at the moment, but I’m not giving up on it. It’ll be the backbone of my writing routine.
This post came about because of the aforementioned realization. I was choking under the pressure of the production schedule I created when I decided to focus on my income producing series.
Today, I had to face what I’ve been doing to myself. I made that schedule to see if I could squeeze in the other books I want to write alongside the ones I need to write if I’m serious about focusing on growing my income for a while. Of course, it became a ridiculous expression of everything I know is wrong with the way I think sometimes. I had input deadlines for every book I want to write between now and next year and I had compressed those deadlines to the point that I was going to have to write more words every day than I’d ever written in my life and maintain that pace for weeks at a time.
To remind you, if I focus on my income producing series to the exclusion of my other books, I can write half the number of books in the same time period and yet in all probability earn more money. There’s just no world in which this isn’t the smart thing for me to do, knowing how slow I write.
And yet, there I was this morning, staring at that production schedule and wondering why I’ve been having so much trouble getting myself to write since I created it. It should have been inspiring, I told myself, because it showed what I could accomplish if I just buckled down.
But it wasn’t.
My sanity returned after a flurry of scribbled notes and much too much time spent trying to make it work out to a smaller, more reasonable daily word count average. It’s never going to work out. I just can’t count on myself to write at a steady pace each day and I can’t work to these deadlines. The reason I love writing for a living is because I can take the daily ups and downs I naturally experience and smooth them out into what will become the whole. A book is a book when it’s done; it doesn’t matter if I wrote 1000 words a day for 50 days or if I wrote 0 words for 25 days and 2000 a day for the rest, because I still end up with my book. I can count on my averages. I can’t count on much else.
I don’t want to stop trying to improve my averages, and I’ll still keep trying to stick with my schedule as best I can. I want to improve. But I don’t want to do it with deadlines hanging over my head.
And that’s all I really wanted to say today.