Just last week, I had a deadline for a script and felt the grip of familiar panic. Another writer friend of mine said she had to have a deadline or she would not finish anything—and I’m pretty much the same. ‘A deadline should be motivating but not overwhelming,’ I said. ‘Otherwise you tend to crack and not produce anything.’
This time round, with a sense of calm and a loose but firm strategy, I made it to the deadline (OK, four days after the deadline—but I made it to the finish line).
5 Lifelines For Writers With Deadlines
If you’re on deadline, here are five tips that may help you:
- Block out daily writing time. Plan your writing schedule in your diary. If you’re using an electronic diary, set an alarm reminder. At the same time, don’t be inflexible if things change—stress won’t help the creative process.
- Get up early. If you have a full-time job, set your alarm clock an hour or two earlier. This can be tough, especially if its winter or you’re not a morning person, but it’s uninterrupted time that will give you time to write with a fresh head.
- Use your lunch time. You’d be surprised how much you can write in an hour or even a half-hour. Take your tablet or notebook and sit in a quiet corner of the canteen or nearby coffee shop.
- Lock into your left brain. Before you start to write, make a bullet point list of everything absolutely essential that must go into a scene or chapter – this will stop you from going off track. Similarly, organise your notes and research in central files or folders so you don’t waste time looking for stuff.
- Unplug the Internet. This seems like such an obvious one, but it must be said. Email and Facebook are insidious distractions you may not even notice eating into your precious time. If you can bear it, switch your phone off too.
Of course, while we’re locked into a deadline, some of us tend to resort to some less than healthy coping mechanisms—for me, it was too much coffee and snack food. This is never a good strategy long term –you still need to eat healthily, get (some) sleep. A walk now and then to clear your head is probably also a good idea.
While there is a sort of exhausted relief at finishing your book or screenplay, there is also a poignant emptiness. It’s like driving home from a great party, knowing you should get some sleep but at the same time, wanting to hold on to the memories.