Deadlines are two things; fantastic and terrifying. Deadlines are important in writingas they keep you on track, help you form habit, and lead to productivity. But it’s also important not to let those deadlines make you miserable, take the fun out of writing, or stress you out.
I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always meet my deadlines. On the last book I wrote, I did. I hit every deadline, and then set myself the exact same target with my current novel. But no two novels are the same, and the one I’m writing now is challenging me. So I’ve missed my deadline. In fact, I’ve missed several. I’ve begun accepting it. So, if you’ve missed one of your deadlines, here’s what to do:
Be kind to yourself
I’ve lost count of how many posts I’ve used this sentence in. But it’s important. Writers, be kind to yourselves. It’s so easy to fill yourself up with feelings of disappointment, self-loathing, or shame. But why should you? Writing is tough. Some books are easier to write than others. Life is unpredictable. You may have been busy, stressed, distracted, enjoying other things….whatever it was, don’t beat yourself up. You’ve let nobody down. Punishing yourself will only zap joy from your writing.
Take a break if you need it
Perhaps you missed your deadline because you’re brooding over a tricky chapter, trying to fill an enormous plot hole, or struggling to connect with your characters. All of these things can slow you down. So, if you need it, take a break. It may mean you’re slowing down your progress for a little while, but returning to your work after a break often causes a surge in productivity.
Set targets and goals without a time limit
Perhaps, for now, a time limit isn’t the right goal for you. That’s fine. Set yourself targets instead. They could be I want to write 500 words or I want to finish this chapter. Each little win is progress, and you don’t need to set the clock for it to count as an achievement.
Re-evaluate your deadlines
If/when you’re ready to get back to deadlines, simply re-evaluate them. You missed one. So what? All you need to do is extend it. Give yourself permission to change the date or time frame, without feeling guilty. We often expect too much of ourselves, but it’s important to dust off and keep going, rather than drowning yourself in writer’s guilt.
Missing a deadline doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for this. Keep going. Learn from your mistakes and successes, grow from your achievements and your defeats. Either way, you carry on. Remember why you write, why you love it, why you need it. And then pick that pen back up and go!
What’re your thoughts on deadlines? Do you love or dread them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.