Deadlines and Delusions

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt


A few years ago, I read a comment from a retiring magazine editor who said she had been on a deadline for four decades. In the midst of my own personal deadline crisis, my heart raced at the thought. My mind screamed:  I don’t want to be on a deadline for the rest of my life!

For months, I wracked my brain trying to think of ways to write without deadlines. After all, I reasoned, I’m much too free spirited. Life is busy. Surely, writing will be effortless if I just work at my own pace.

I was delusional.

If you are involved in the publishing industry in any capacity, deadlines are an inevitable and necessary part of life.

  • Freelance writers, editors and designers must meet deadlines. Miss them more than a time or two, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get another assignment from that employer.
  • Magazine and book editors must assign and stick to deadlines to ensure their publications actually make it to press.
  • Authors—including authors who want to self-publish—should set deadlines for their writing projects. Why? Even if you’re working on your own schedule, without a firm deadline you have no real sense of urgency; no real need to ever complete your project.

Case in point: A fun part of my career is writing my Zany Zia’s Hats to Where adventure books for young readers. That series is a personal project—something I do simply because I enjoy it. For the first book, I had no deadline. It took at least three years to get started and more than a year to complete it. A year isn’t an unreasonable amount of time to spend on a book… except when you consider that this book is only 14,000 words and the actual “seat in seat” time spent writing was less than 30 days.

To be fair, writing my Zany Zia books is like recess from the other writing, editing and book coaching I do. In other words, it is never the only project I have going at the time. But is that ever the case for our personal writing projects? Life coaches, speakers and business leaders who want to increase their credibility as an expert by authoring a book rarely have the luxury of devoting unlimited hours to their writing. That’s where deadlines come into play.

If you want to write a book, set a reasonable deadline for your project. That deadline could be:

  • A speaking engagement booked six months from now.
  • A workshop you’re hosting for your clients next quarter.
  • A promise to your family to focus intensely on your writing project for a finite number of weeks.
  • A book launch party. Send a “save the date” message and commit to having your book complete so you can sign copies at the event.

With your deadline in mind, work backwards to create a realistic schedule that allows for writing, editing, designing, proofing, publishing and delivery. Commit to your deadline and then start writing!

The reward of holding your very own book is worth it!

Ready to commit to completing your book? The 8 Weeks to Authorship Program can help you stay on track so you can meet your deadline.

Leave a comment below a let us know what you’re writing and when you will complete it. We’ll be cheering for you!

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