Today’s article is written by regular contributor Krissy Brady.
One of the biggest challenges writers face is striking a balance between work, writing, and personal life. Throw a writing deadline into an especially hectic time in your life, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Here are five simple steps to ensure you’ll meet your writing deadlines no matter what life throws your way:
1. Prioritize Your Writing Tasks
We all have calls for submissions and magazines we’d like to pitch our writing to. We also have personal deadlines we’re trying to meet, such as weekly word or page count goals for our novels/screenplays.
When all markets we submit to offer an equal amount of uncertainty, it’s hard to decide where to start. How do we decide which submissions hold the most potential?
Don’t fret if you feel lost in this department. What matters is you’re in this department, working toward a strategy that works best for your individual writing goals.
Here’s my personal strategy, which you can use as a starting point for your own:
I have magazines I’d like to submit pitches to, calls for submissions I’d like to submit literary pieces to, and two screenplays I’m working on to help me find an agent.
When it’s time to write, and I’m beside myself with where to start, the question I always ask myself is:
Which writing projects have the highest potential to earn my living?
In order to become a full-time writer, you need to make enough money to make the transition from your current job to your desired writing job. I always work on my magazine pitches before anything else. These will help build my credentials, and will help me earn a living.
Next I work on my passion projects. I start with the calls for submissions I’ve compiled with strict deadlines, then mosey on to my screenplays.
My screenplays are last on the list, but they’re not last in my heart. I’m sure you feel the same way about your current work-in-progress. When it comes to your passion projects, let them take as much time as they naturally need to become fabulous.
2. Be Realistic, Not Negative
Creating a realistic writing schedule isn’t an exact science (I’m still trying to get a grip on mine). No matter how hard we try, there are going to be unexpected setbacks that will cause delays with our writing projects.
There will be times we’ll be unable to meet a call for submissions deadline or one of our personal deadlines, and it’s important to not feel like a failure when this happens.
What’s important is to be open to the learning experience and ask yourself why and what?
- Why didn’t I meet the deadline? Could this have been prevented?
- What can I do to prevent this from happening in the future?
Do everything you can to push away thoughts like, “Why did I bother trying? Of course I wasn’t going to succeed,” and pull toward thoughts like, “At least I tried, and I’ll do better next time.”
As they say: Feel the fear, but do it anyway.
3. Do Your Chores Ahead of Time
Have you ever noticed the second a writing deadline starts putting pressure on us, we suddenly feel the urge to organize our socks by color, and vaccuum every nook and cranny of our homes?
Take note of your typical procrastination triggers—the random things you turn to when avoiding your writing—and take care of them ahead of time. I call this “procrastinating in advance.”
Not only is my mind clear and excuse-free when I start writing, my apartment looks fabulous!
4. Allow Time for Breaks
While we crave as much time to write as possible, once we’ve made the time, we end up with stage fright. There’s a large chunk of time sitting right in front of us, and we know the blinking cursor won’t move on its own—yet, we panic and resort to Facebook stalking and random tweeting.
I’m not sure why this is—whether it’s a form of self-sabotage or intimidation—but for whatever reason, we lose our fluency.
The more intimidating the project, the more you need to strategize your time. Strip away the intimidation by breaking down the project into smaller, bite-sized tasks.
For example, there’s nothing more intimidating than pitching an article idea to a high-end magazine.
However, if you take your pitch and break it down:
- Solidify the angle of your article
- Research your idea
- Contact and interview experts
- Write the rough draft of your pitch
- Revise and polish your pitch
- Research magazines to pitch to
- Contact the appropriate editor of each market
- Follow up in two weeks
It doesn’t seem as intimidating, does it?
Work on each phase of your goal, and take a small break in between to let your mind breathe, letting go of the previous phase so you can fully focus on the next one.
5. Use Organizational Tools to Help You Stay on Track
Every writer has their own way of organizing their writing goals. Some use a Monday-Friday checklist (or weekend checklist, depending on their work schedule); some use the notification feature on their cell phone; some use whiteboards or desk calendars. (Personally, I use the calendar app on my iPad.)
Find the organizational tools that best suit you, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your writing deadlines without fear.
If you’re unsure of where to start with creating an organizational system for yourself, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen. She offers a wide array of advice and solutions to create a productive writing life, and it’s the most thorough book I’ve read on the subject.
We often become overly passionate about our writing and put too much pressure on ourselves to perform at a pace that only a machine could, and end up disappointed when we only complete a fraction of what we set out to.
By prioritizing your writing projects based on potential income and the deadlines set out by publications, you’ll then be able to realistically incorporate your passion projects into the mix.
What’s your strategy for meeting writing deadlines during especially hectic times?