Walking Deadline


Monday, I heard Myla Goldberg speak at the Marcus JCC, as part of their annual book festival. Myla wrote Bee Season, among other books, and her latest is The False Friend. Normally, I hate it when authors read from their books. I don’t care how good the book is– readings make me want to take a nap. But Myla was such a dynamic, animated speaker, and the passage she selected to read from The False Friend was so haunting– I was entranced. I’ll definitely be reading the book.

Yesterday, I read this blog post about the importance of self-imposed deadlines in writing. From March through May of this year, I put myself on a strict deadline– to write 2 pages a day, and complete the entire first draft of my novel before we left for India Memorial Day weekend.

My caveat– I was allowed to carry pages backward, but never forward. Here’s what I mean– I couldn’t “write ahead” in anticipation of events that would make it difficult for me to write on a particular day.

Let’s say I had family in town staying at our house. I couldn’t say “oh, I’ll write 6 pages today, and then I’ll get 2 days off.” If I wrote 6 pages in one day, it never, ever relieved me from writing my 2 pages for the next 2 days. If family was in town? I’d write my 2 pages before everyone woke up, or after they went to bed. I always had to write my 2 pages, no matter what else was going on.

However, if I was sick, and skipped a day, I made sure I wrote 4 pages the next day, to cover the day I missed.

Get it? The pages couldn’t carry forward, but they could carry backward.

Looking back, my rules for writing sound a bit absurd. I’m sure many writers’ personal rules for deadlines (word count, page number, chapter/scene per day or week) are a bit on the crazy side. Perhaps a bit too ambitious. Life happens, after all, and every writer has to make adjustments.

But the point of self-imposed deadlines, is that we as writers need to hold them to the exact same standards as other deadlines in our lives. We have to. Because if we don’t, we’ll spend our days updating our Facebook status or tweeting or reading blogs– and not have anything but a blank page to show for it.

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4 thoughts on “Walking Deadline

  1. Kudos to following a writing schedule! I like the idea of not being able to write ahead, that if you do more pages one day, that’s great, but you still have to sit down the next day. I’m very pleased to hear you allowed yourself to miss a day as long as you made up for it later.

    “But the point of self-imposed deadlines, is that we as writers need to hold them to the exact same standards as other deadlines in our lives. We have to.” Brilliant.

  2. yeah, you’re absolutely right. That’s why I never published any other academic articles other than the first ones. And I only finished my dissertation because I totally “had” to.

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