“To everyone who has ever emailed to ask me for advice on writing, my answer is: get a deadline. That's all you really need. Forget about luck. Don't fret about talent. Just pay someone larger than you to kick your knees until they fold the wrong way if you don't hand in 800 words by five o'clock. You'll be amazed at what comes out.”
Charlie Brooker The Guardian
There was a time in my life when my best—or at least my most prolific—writing was done after nightfall. Something about the quiet and darkness, about working when most people slept, made the sometimes agonizing writing process easier and less anxiety-ridden.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I assumed I would easily continue to find time to write. Surely I would maintain my nighttime writing routine, I thought, and there would also be time when the baby slept during the day, right?
"A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all." Rita Mae Brown
As it turns out, I was so preoccupied with parenthood (and sleep deprived) most days I could barely even think, let alone write. Any writing I did during that first year or so was paid writer-for-hire freelance writing. I was under contract and had no choice but to complete my work, whether or not I felt inspired, interested or well-rested. Was it my best writing? No. But I had signed a contract and made a commitment and I absolutely surpassed the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in one month goal more than a few times.
Even now, several years later, I am most productive when I am under pressure to finish by a certain date.
The word strikes fear into the hearts of many new and established writers. For many, though, deadlines are at best welcome and at worst a necessary evil. If you find the pressure created by deadlines too oppressive, there are many books and articles on how to cope with that stress.
If you work better under pressure but do not have an external publisher or editor or contract placing you under a deadline, there are ways to create it for yourself. Work with an editor (better yet, hire an editor) who'll give you a deadline. Commit to entering writing contests. Find a writing partner or group (online or in person) to put pressure on you to produce. Participate in events like the National Novel Writing Month or the upcoming Script Frenzy.
And remember you're not alone.
"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." Margaret Atwood
Forget those creative writing workshops. If you want to write, get threatened. Charlie Brooker The Guardian
Deadlines can give life to creative writing. Robert McCrum The Guardian
"Deadlines just aren't real to me until I'm staring one in the face." Rick Riordan