Sunday 8 September 2013

Deadlines, Schedules & Routines - The Creative Process

Deadlines, Schedules & Routines

Everyone who has ever had an education knows about deadlines. They also know about schedules and most of them will also know about routines. I wanted to cover all three of these in this piece and will try to separate them, but sometimes they all mean the same thing, or at least led to the same goal.

A deadline is something that can be used to motivate a writer. It can be that time in the distance when you'll have to turn in your first draft. It can work for them, or if you're like me, it can cripple them. I do not do well with deadlines. It's not that I never use them, I mean that if I tell myself, or an agent or publisher tells me, you have to finish this job by X date, then I find it extremely hard to work. I have always been a writer that works to her own pace. I do set myself deadlines, you'll have seen the "chapters of the fortnight" on my Facebook page. I try to write two chapters of each book every two weeks. That's  a deadline technically, and it does help me. Sometimes I'll manage all four within a week and will move on to "bonus" chapters.

So, I hear you ask, why have I stated that deadlines cripple me? Simple. If it's a deadline that I can work towards with minimal pressure - the chapters of the fortnight will not make or break me, for example - then I find that I do not feel pressured and stressed when I can't work towards it. I get obsessed with daily word counts and ultimately fall behind. That's when I start to come apart at the seams. What if I don't make it? What if because I don't make it then I fail? These are all things that go through my head and eventually, I just flop down on the floor and give up. Or I work myself too hard, and my body gives up. Either way I'm on the floor, and no writing is happening.

Some writers find deadlines a great motivator. They move closer and manage to create their work with ease. I am fully aware that I am not one of them. Still, which ever type of writer you are, you're going to have to find a way to work to some sort of deadline. If you're an indie writer then you have a bit of leeway as you're able to set your own deadlines, and usually you only have yourself to answer to should you not meet them. It's a win-win situation, and it's one of the reasons I meet the deadlines I set myself.

Alongside deadlines, you'll have a schedule. A way to keep on track because it's a Monday and you do writing for an hour here and half an hour there. You slip into a routine of what you need to do, and a way to keep doing it. If you've got an upcoming deadline, you can alter your plan and slip out of routine for a week or so to get what you need done. The trick is, once again, the balancing act of how strict you are with your plan and how deep your routines go.

Some writers will find that they can stick to a loose schedule. They plan to write for three hours a day, but they will do it when the mood strikes. There is no set time or place to write and others will pretty much have every waking hour organised into a time table. I'm a mix of the two. I have a goal of what needs to be done each day, and I fit my writing in. I aim to do two hours of writing a day, but alongside my university work and other commitments, while there is some semblance of routine, it's not always the same time day in and day out.

I also use a "to-do" list which I set at the beginning of the fortnight of everything that I have to get done. I record uni work, book work, hobbies and other things like doctors appointments and seeing friends. I then cross off each thing piece by piece. That way I can look at it on days when I feel as if I have done nothing, and see that actually, I may have had a lazy day, I'm on track. You could say that it's a kind of flexible schedule with its own deadlines built in.

Of course, deadlines such as release dates can not always be avoided. If you plan to release your book, then you need to be able to do the relevant promotion. To do that, you need to have some idea of when it will be ready to be published. Which means you need to know when the editing will be done and when you'll have finished doing everything needed. Those kinds of deadlines I do work well with.

So, when you're writing, be kind to yourself. Don't pile on deadlines when they can be avoided, unless you need that kind of motivation to get writing, in which case, go for it. It's fine to set up a schedule and get into a routine, but you need to be aware that these things need to be somewhat flexible. As always, your mileage may vary and have fun creating your new worlds.

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