Just show up

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”
–Douglas Adams

Sorry, Douglas. You may be one of my favorite writers, but I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Sort of.

I love deadlines, too. I love hitting them, that is. Deadlines keep me honest. They force me to produce even when I’d much rather do something else. Basically, they force me to show up.

I set myself a number of deadlines because I know otherwise I wouldn’t accomplish as much as I want to. Because they’re self-imposed, I’m not really accountable to anyone other than myself. If I don’t send an e-mail or I don’t post to my blog on a regular basis, sure some readers may notice, but it’s doubtful. So maybe I skip a day or a week, and the world doesn’t end.

I’m not writing my next novel to a contract or a deadline either, so if I don’t hit my goal of having a first draft completed by April 1, no one’s going to be tapping their foot wondering where it is or why it’s not done. I could finish the novel in April or May or June and no one would be any the wiser that I’d let that deadline go whooshing by.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

I’ve skipped a couple of my own self-imposed deadlines lately, and hearing that whooshing noise as they go by makes me queasy. Sure, maybe they’re just self-imposed, but when I don’t hit one, it makes me worry that other deadlines will slide.

Deadlines force me to show up, and I think showing up is half the battle. Deadlines make me sit in front of my computer (or my typewriter, or my notebook—if it came to it, I’d resort to a hammer and chisel, I guess) and put in the time. They make me accountable to something/someone other than myself. Writing involves so many long stretches where the work takes place solely in your own head, or between you and the keyboard, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s eventually a dialogue between the work and a reader who is not you.

You may not realize it, but when I put out there statements like “I plan to finish the first draft of my next novel by April 1,” you’re helping me keep myself accountable by reading it, so thanks.

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