You’ve heard this before, like flossing, oil changes for the car, or the laundry, the routine and ritual of daily activities shape our lives. Though the dirty work often gets glossed over, if acknowledged at all, our chores won’t go away because the make the architecture of our existence. With that said, we’ve got to have deadlines. Time lines are not sexy or glamorous, but a writer isn’t a writer without them.
From a New York Times article by David Garner, who covers the release of The Paris Review’s digital archives, Garner writes, “Process is, by and large, boring. As the novelist Jonathan Lethem put it in his 2003 interview (which is excellent), ‘You’re interrogating a fish on the nature of water.’ …The abundance of book chat is a situation Larkin would have deplored. About the notion of a writer explaining how he writes, he declared in 1982: ‘It’s like going around explaining how you sleep with your wife.” Then again, Larkin never married.'” Process, deadlines, and time-lines are messy. They require commitment. How unsexy is that?
So what do we mean when we speak of deadlines? All hefty undertakings require laborious, repeated lifting, so the key to deadlines is to break them up into smaller chunks, step by step. You have to know what you want. Envision the target and keep to a steady path.
- Complete first draft
- Revise for second draft
- Polish third draft.
Even smaller units than the ones listed above would help pinpoint and track progress with laser precision:
- Chapter 3 revised in three weeks
- Research first setting in a week
- Prepare manuscript for submission by the end of the day
With a plethora of devices to choose from, we’re not short of means to remind us of our deadline and keep us on course. We can choose to go old school with Post It Notes, corkboards, dry erase boards, and paper calenders. Then there are the electronic ways, iCalendars, Google Calendars, Blackberry, and the list keeps growing. And, if we need outside help, we can always consider passing a word or two to our colleagues and friends, in the hopes that they’ll hold us to our word, particularly writer friends or artists who share similar ambitions and understand the creative process and the necessity for self-discipline can be especially encouraging.
Keep in mind contest and submission due dates. Many times, we’ll have to work backward. Set a target date in the future, and, in retrograde, set increments from the time ahead to present. Writers are athletes in constant training. We must continually exercise to remain agile and stretch our skills, test our talents. We must have regimens.
Here’s a sample regimen:
- Finish 1st Draft
- Revise Story-map with notes (outline chapters, determine how many scenes per chapter)
- Rewrite second draft according to new story-map with new notes
- Research major issues
- Review personal journals for more notes to comb through
The second part of this piece is forthcoming…
How do you practice making deadlines? Do you have a tried and true method you’d like to share with the salon?