Deadlines: A Lesson in How Not To Psych Yourself Out

aka Working With Your Internal Critic

So over the past couple of weeks I’ve been writing a draft for a deadline. It was a pretty tight deadline – but I was determined to finish and to do the best that I could. I decided that I would assign a page count per day and get through that page count no matter what. I knew if I didn’t hit my page count, I wouldn’t get my project in on time.

I was doing well until I hit a bump in the road. I was writing through a part in my outline that was very roughly sketched out. I’d written in two very general paragraphs about the investigative component of my thriller. When I came to this in my outline, I almost had a full blown panic attack. I was sure I’d now completely miss my deadline, because it was going to take me another day to figure out what they’d do.

Instead of succumbing to panic, I just took a deep breath and decided to go in another direction. I decided to turn to my characters. I just had to say, okay, motherfuckers, I don’t know what the hell you would do now, so why don’t you just show me?

That was when I focused exclusively on what my characters would do in that situation, and they led me to the next thing.

Within their scenes, my characters were able to make choices that felt natural and organic to them within those moments – and I was able to write through, keep my page count and meet my deadline.

I’m using this as an example to illustrate that in writing any project, there will be times we’ll be unsure, not know exactly how to proceed, get nervous and then want to halt the process. However, in these times more than ever, the best thing we can do is simply show up and trust the process.

More often than not, simply showing up and agreeing to be present for the writing is enough to keep momentum going. We always want to get in our own way, and yet, if we show up and allow our characters space to do what they will, they’ll show us where to go next. It’s all about trusting the process.

Don’t get distracted by the finish line or the deadline. Stay in the moment, write each scene as it comes to you, and before you know it, you’ll be done – and you’ll be proud of yourself that you were able to work your way through it, one breath at a time.

One Response to Deadlines: A Lesson in How Not To Psych Yourself Out

  1. Matt Martin November 4, 2009 at 5:57 am #

    Man, I really needed this post today, THANK YOU. I’ve panicked myself about my deadline and it’s been stopping me and I have jumped feet first into the cold yuck of procrastination. OK… back to work. It’ll be there… *gulp!*