The Best Laid Plans Are the Best Laid Plans: More on Writer’s Deadlines III

March/April 2011

By Your Salonniere

We must take ourselves seriously. Too often we may let ourselves off the hook. We have our ways. Excuses comes in as many forms as the clouds above our heads, obscuring our vision, clouding the horizon, darkening our path. In a recent Poets & Writers interview with Nikki Finney’s by Kevin Nance, one of her students recounts an evening when she jolted her class with an essential wake–up call. The students had been drinking and partying, and she ushered in sobriety the next morning telling the students that they had to take themselves seriously. The lesson being that no one else will take your writing seriously until we writers assumes authority over our work.

How often do we excuse ourselves from challenges that will make us grow and take us to the next level? James Suroweicki in The New Yorker recently covered a study on human will power in his article “In Praise of Distraction” which specifically focuses on the use of social media tools while on the job. The study found that productivity weakened when employees were restricted from accessing their Facebook or Twitter accounts, revealing that these so-called distractions might actually inspire motivation. What’s interesting is that the report revealed the more restricted we are in our choices, the less will power we have.

So, we have all these tools for outreach and connection, but how do we make them work for us? We can’t be serious all the time, but can we be serious when it counts? Sometimes willing the will power is next to impossible. The crux of this willing is that its a never-ending cycle. We may have the stamina today, yet, it eludes us the entire length of the following week, and Monday through Sunday, we’re pulling our hair out wondering why motivation abandoned us. Anyone who has stayed true to the craft for at least five years straight knows that this is simply the process. The will to power comes and goes like the moon waxes and wanes.

Hopefully after five plus years we’ve abandoned the Big Bang Hope and are far too mature, perhaps more cynical and jaded, so we realize that any dreams of overnight success are precisely that, dreams. We listen to the newbies, who yearn for their Big Bang moment, praying for some monumental change that will fall into their laps from the benevolent skies above and change their life forever. We, who toil and persevere approaching the page regularly, whether we want to or not, know that toiling and perseverance are the name of the game.


So how do we take ourselves seriously day in and night out years on end to ensure we’re not letting ourselves off the hook? We keep ready a set of strategies at hand like a performer who has an expansive repertoire she can pull to keep her audience on their toes. We keep an open and flexible mind, and we try our best to track where we’ve been and keep tabs on where we’re hoping to go with our project:

  • Lists are a necessity. They can be a lifeline in a pool of quicksand, keeping us threaded to what’s important, helping us find a way out of the mires of things-to-d0, people-to-see, and places-to-go. Lists, especially prioritized, can serve as rungs, providing footholds to climb our up insurmountable mountains.
  • Though, we have to stay flexible and know that we may lose our grip. Our palms may get sweaty with anxiety, we may falter in step, or we may just want to linger on an outcrop for a while and take in the view. We should be flexible enough to know that our list is merely a reflection of our goals, and these goals are moving targets, always changing as we change.

How do you take yourself seriously? When do you let yourself off the hook? Stop by the salon again for Part IV on Writer’s Deadlines…


  1. A-MEN! Very well said, and I whole-heartedly agree. Taking yourself seriously is a huge leap to make, and yet it’s entirely necessary for anything resembling literary success, whether internal or external. Looking forward to the next part!

  2. Thanks, Emily. I love how you point out that there are internal and external successes, and the two don’t always coincide. Double amen! The next part is in the works.

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