Long Live the Dreaded Deadline


I truly do not know what I would do if there was no such thing as a deadline. Two options loom largest: 1) I’d never get started until the last minute; or 2) I’d keep futzing around with something, never knowing when to stop. One is called procrastination, and the other, perfectionism. Neither is useful if one wants to make his or her living as a writer.

Procrastination has many excuses, some true and some not. Family, illness, the second job—all of these elements can intrude into one’s day, causing delays, postponements, and priority shifting. I have often been the victim of creating a goal without having an effective action plan to accomplish it. And as many of us know, wanting and doing are not the same things. That’s where a deadline can be extremely helpful. Having a due date forces one to not only develop a plan of action, but to also dredge up the energy needed to attain said goal.

For example, say I want to write a short, 55,000-word novel over the course of the next month. June has 30 days, so if I write six or the seven days during the week, then I must produce no less than 2,300 words a day to meet my deadline-an easy accomplishment for most of us. Thanks to the deadline, I now know how to manifest my goal.

Deadlines can also be helpful for those of us who find themselves editing and re-editing ad nauseum, never finding that illusive ideal of the perfectly written novel (if there is such a thing). I am a true believer in the editing process, but I have also experienced the hard lesson of not knowing when to quit. In fact, when I over-edit, I often lose my voice as a writer in an effort to achieve perfection. A deadline forces me to end that process before I do something I may later regret.

I guess what I’m saying is: goals are important, but without deadlines they can often stay in the Lulu-land of pipedreams and wishful thinking.

Gwen Overland