There’s a certain thrill in a deadline, in having a specific point in time by which you must finish something or fail. And, for better or worse, I’ve always gotten along with said deadlines fairly well. Give me a deadline, and I will get more done than I ever thought possible.
Unfortunately for my stress levels, these bouts of productivity tend to happen either the night before or the morning of. I cannot count the number of essays I completed just before they were due, writing them in a rush of panic and sudden clarity. The sad thing is, the few I did write sensibly, over the course of several days, almost invariably turned out to be of poorer quality than the ones that poured out in one great flood. (Much of that, I suspect, may come down to lack of practice, but the point still stands.)
On a broader, less chaotic level, just having specific deadlines means I’m far more likely to finish things. Before I started this blog, I had set myself the goal (a deadline, perhaps?) of writing every day*. My target wordcount varied a little depending on outside circumstances, but generally landed between 100 and 350 words. It was fantastic! As I began to write regularly, whether or not I really felt like it, the words began to come more and more easily. I made progress in my stories, and it took less coaxing to get the words down on the page.
The problem was, I just had to write a certain number of words. Any words. I made sure they were fiction, but beyond that, it really didn’t matter. I could play around with a new story or fiddle with an old one. I could painstakingly carve out the next tiny segment of my current novel, or I could poke at a completely new idea that had just wandered into my head.
And then I started this blog.
Suddenly, I didn’t just have to write, I had to write complete stories and blog posts, and I had to write them in time to post them on schedule. It’s a self-set schedule, I grant you, but somehow, that almost made it worse. And so, I wrote: mini-essays, short stories, random musings. The one thing they have in common is the fact that they all need to be self-contained, complete thoughts. No more writing the first 250 words that I can coax from the ends of my fingers for me! (At least, not until I’ve done my work.)
I’m not going to lie– I’m only a couple of months in and it’s already hard. It takes a level of discipline that I don’t quite have yet, which would explain why I’ve ended up staying up until 5am, begging my darn story to just finish itself already. Hopefully, it’s going to get easier. I expect it to. In some ways, I need it to, since the human body can only survive on coffee and adrenaline for so long.
In the meantime, though, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I’ve completed more short stories in the last few weeks than I had for months before.
* Or rather, almost every day, as I quickly found that taking Sundays off meant that I was far less likely to burn myself out.