INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” — Douglas Adams
It’s not just you. Almost every writer has a hard time being productive without a concrete, meaningful deadline staring them in the face. And, when it comes to deadlines, the meaningful word is ‘meaningful’.
“I want to write 10 pages by the end of the week,” is not a meaningful deadline.
“I have to write 10 pages by the end of the week,” is no more meaningful, no matter how hard you underline it, unless the date is attached to rewards and / or consequences.
A meaningful deadline is a specific date (preferably in the near future) when you have to deliver words to someone—or else.
Here are some ways to make a deadline meaningful:
1. Make a Professional Date with a writing buddy or writing coach who will get annoyed—or get paid anyway—if you don’t do the work (consequence) and who is waiting to read (and hoping to love) what you wrote (the best reward). Let’s be honest: the real reason you aren’t producing more pages is because you’re afraid that whoever reads it (including you) will hate it (the worst consequence).
2. Have the Deadline Imposed & Enforced by Someone Else—When you’re getting paid to write (blessed day!), a deadline is meaningful because if you don’t hand in your draft, you’ll miss the editor / producer / studio’s production / publication deadline (consequence) and / or you may not get paid (dire consequence) and possibly never work again (!!). If you do hand it in, you will get paid (reward) and potentially get to work again and / or get one step closer to bringing your work to the public.
3. Schedule a Presentation At a Writing Workshop or Writing Group—This gives you an assigned deadline when you have to present some work. If you miss the deadline, you miss your turn for feedback (consequence), but if you do complete the work you have accomplished another step towards the completed project (reward) and you can present the work to people who can give you positive reinforcement (reward).
4. Book an Onstage Appearance—You can use gigs very productively to work on pieces of your larger project. There’s probably an event that features people reading essays or telling stories or an ‘open-mic’ comedy show near you. See if you can book some stage time, because there’s no clearer deadline than when you get announced to step onstage. And there’s probably no more devastating consequence than the horror and humiliation of standing onstage with nothing to say because you’re unprepared.
5. Plan a Vacation (extra credit for non-refundable tickets)—If you don’t hand in your assignment, you won’t get to go.
6. Make a Social Date—Schedule a romantic date, movie or appointment TV that you can’t attend unless you finish a designated amount of work (3 pages, a scene, etc.). You can make up your own system, rewarding yourself with coffee, candy or a bathroom break when you finish another page. I know one successful writer who actually agreed to pay someone $1000 if they didn’t turn in a draft by a certain date. By the way, I am totally available to be the ‘someone’ in that arrangement if you’d like to try that method.
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This material is excerpted from “How To Be A Writer Who Writes: Strategies and Tactics to Start and Finish Your Book or Script” by Greg Miller. Get the book for Kindle or any other e-book formats.
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