As nonfiction writers, we like to get the skinny on any given subject. Most of us are curious by nature. So we enjoy the process. And we like to share the stuff we’ve found. But sometimes we get bogged down along the way. That’s when an actual deadline can help us reach the finish line.
Whether your deadline is one given to you by an editor or one you impose on yourself, you can use it to help you get to your writing goal.
Start by putting your deadline on your calendar. (I use a large desk calendar for this purpose.) Put in all other important dates, including non-writing related events. Be realistic. Put in doctor visits or other appointments. And give yourself permission to attend that concert or spend the day on an outing with your family. But be sure to put as much of it as you can on your calendar from the get-go.
Now look at the days you have left. Note which days are writing days. Now think about how you might break your project into parts. Set a deadline for each part of the project. Meeting each mini deadline will move you closer and closer to finishing your project. Try to give yourself a few days at the end for your project to “stew” in your mind before you have to turn it in. Those days will be a gift if a family emergency or something else arises to demand your attention.
Plotting out your writing days in this manner, with mini deadlines along the way, will help you plan out your project. It will also take away some of the anxiety associated with having a big project due if you know you are on schedule. It allows you to finish the part you have planned for that day and gives you the freedom to stop or continue if you are on schedule.
For added visual reminder, you can create a sticky-note list on a wall near your desk. Write one mini deadline on each note. Date them if you desire. As you meet each goal, take down the corresponding sticky-note and throw it away. Each time you throw away a note, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. And the shrinking list reminds you that you are on your way to completing your project.
And before you know it: Presto! Your deadline becomes your finish line!
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