Now, rushing to meet a deadline and working under pressure is a bad idea for most of us, but we can use deadlines and commitments to maintain (or even raise) our productivity. They can help by:
- Encouraging us to plan out our work, with specific task toward delivery done each day.
- Putting a line under a project so we stop tweaking beyond what is reasonable.
- Providing a sense of the arc of our careers, with measured milestones.
- Providing a point for reflection -- we can schedule a real post mortem of a project only when it is done. (More on project post mortems tomorrow.)
- Giving us a date at which we can share a project without dissipating our interest. (Too often, people use up their enthusiasm before a work is finished because they get the elicit praise prematurely.)
- Estimate the hours left based on my history and individual tasks (rewrite a scene, not write a novel), add 50%, and mark the date on a calendar.
- Work toward a contest deadline. (There are lots of contests out there. Check out Stephie Smith's matrix for examples.)
- Join an online writers group with a regular page requirement.
What transforms these commitments into finished works is getting them working toward an overall goal and making sure that they include all the steps toward creating a final work. I know diligent writers who create nothing but first drafts (often incomplete) or who have been rewriting the same book for years.
Most of us have been pushed by the education apparatus to make deadlines and commitments part of our work process. I have mixed feelings about what that does to us. Do we lose some of our creativity? Does it cause us to spend less time in the moment? Do we miss experiences and mute our responses? Probably all of the above. But, since we have internalized deadlines and commitments, why shouldn't put them to work to make us more productive writers?