I had this hand-written on a post-it note on my desk for an embarrassingly long time before I realized it was that Douglas Adams. So long and thanks for all the fish Douglas Adams. The secret is to bang the rocks together guys Douglas Adams. The impenetrable SEP field (“Someone Else’s Problem”) Douglas Adams. The Last Chance to See Douglas Adams (look it up – you won’t be sorry).
The prolific Douglas Adams. The successful author Douglas Adams. The didn’t-always-meet-his-deadlines Douglas Adams.
It gives me hope. Let’s face it. I’m three days late with this blog post. Deadlines aren’t my thing.
And that *is* the thing. You have to find what works for you to get the work done.
Hey, we’re all busy. Most writers I know work at least one other full-time job. At least two if they are also parents. And as an author, you have to be your own promoter too, and that’s a full-time job even *before* you get to the social media black hole. So how do you make progress? How do you get those words on the page, those stories completed? How do you make your way down that road to a million?
We all have to find our own way. And here’s a real bitch: What works for you at one time might not work at another time. Life changes. We change.
Maybe you used to get up early and write in the peaceful calm, watching the sun rise. But now you can’t drag yourself out of bed before you have to race through the morning routine to get to school or work.
Maybe you used to be a night owl, relishing the still quiet after everyone else has gone to bed. But now your brain starts to shut down and you stare at the keys, or the screen, or find yourself flipping over to Facebook for “just a minute”.
Maybe you used to be the dedicated “Lunchtime Writer” in the office, with strict orders not to be disturbed unless the building was on fire. But too many meetings, or disruptions from people who never get it have chipped away at your precious writing time.
It might be other life changes. Good ones. A new home. A new family. A new lover. A new puppy to train. A new job. Bad ones. Illness. Depression. Anxiety. Separation—from a partner, a child, friends. Loss.
One of the biggest challenges we face is not only making ourselves do the work, but forgiving ourselves when we don’t. And picking our sorry butts off the floor, dusting off, and sitting right back down at the keyboard and the unforgiving—or patiently waiting—blank monitor!
I was a writing machine. I had my novel-in-progress, I had my daily blog, then another novel. Then my life changed and changed again. Some good, some bad. And one day, I stopped writing. Completely. I’ve struggled ever since. I feel like I might finally be coming out the other side. Ideas are flowing, characters are talking, I’ve managed a few blog posts. Life is still changing. I’m still writing. Slowly (slowly said the sloth). Feels like starting over, or again. And again. And again.
So, what about those deadlines? I’ve tried NaNoWriMo. Setting daily WOP (words-on-page) goals. Setting year goals, project goals. Some things work. Some things don’t. The thing I’ve learned about deadlines—in life, work, writing—is that there are very few of them that aren’t actually flexible. Moveable. And sometimes that’s a good thing, because things take longer than expected, problems arise, life intervenes. But if you can’t figure out how to make yourself get the work done…well, you’ll never get the work done.
So you have to decide. Are you gonna get the work done?
And if you’ve missed the last deadline—whether it’s one you set for yourself, or a submission deadline, or a writers group reading—the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and pick it up again. Your stories are still there. That’s why you’re a writer. And even though you may have missed an opportunity (or three) along the way, you weren’t ready for them then. Don’t beat yourself up about what you haven’t done. Take care of what you *can* do now. Sometimes that will be fixing something because of a missed deadline. Maybe staying up late to get out an overdue blog post.
No one becomes a writer because it’s *easy*. We have to make ourselves work hard. We also have to practice a little self care. Sometimes a little forgiveness. And then, get back to work!
What’s the next deadline that’s whooshing closer?!