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Of Deadlines, Pushing, Time-off etc. Writer, Know Thyself!

deadlinesDeadlines! I wrote all weekend to meet a deadline. I usually take weekends off and ‘recreate’ myself, and I advise others to do the same thing.

In my mind this was different.

It was different because the nature of this project consisted of filling out a fairly lengthy form about a particular topic. Every bit of it called for some research – not particularly deep or extensive research, but finding facts on an amazing number of issues within a certain topic – a move to a foreign land.

The form is a Word document that, in this case started out at about 18 pages. Of course, every time I filled in a fact about moving to this country, the document got longer, making it impossible to have a sense of getting it done from the page count, my usual method of pacing myself.

3 Deadlines

The company sets up these guides, fills in a small amount of fairly technical stuff, and sets three deadlines. The rough draft, the draft and the final copy. They also give their writers plenty of time to do the task.  They’re a good outfit to write for.


I always postpone this kind of project to the last minute. The book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions from Alcoholics Anonymous uses this wonderful sentence to define procrastination: Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables. Why does ‘sloth’ sound so much worse than procrastination? Sloth sure fits how I left this project until the last minute.

On the other hand

In my own defense, this is far from the kind of writing I love to do. It’s easy enough, and I found out many interesting things about the country in question. I know where their best beach is, and pretty much how their money works, and how to find a place to live, and their favorite foods. I also found out about taxes and driver’s licenses and other things I have no interest in. A truly mixed bag.

I’ve now done enough of these to know what they take. Although I recognize that, in theory, it would work to do the project an hour or two a day, I don’t. I hold off until I simply must do it if I’m to meet the deadlines.

When I ask myself why I approach this kind of project all-at-once rather than in dribs and drabs, I realize I don’t wan’t to work on it daily for a month. I don’t want to think about it every day. I’d much rather get it done in a few days where, writing wise, it’s almost they only thing I think about – and then it’s done.

Does this make sense?

I have no clue if this makes any ‘sense,’ nor do I care. I know myself as a writer well enough to know I’ll get it done.

That, I think is the issue. There’s really no single way to write anything. Nor will you know how long any project will take you until you’ve timed yourself from time-to-time. Any two writers will do similar projects in wildly different ways. I don’t remember when I actually started to trust myself as a writer, knowing I’d meet deadlines, and what kinds of thinks I can write well, and what I like to write. All that has evolved over time. Which is the way it should I suspect.

What about you? How many approaches do you have for various kinds of writing? What, if anything, needs to change?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer



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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Claudia Previn

    I learned to do last-ditch, all-out efforts to hit a deadline in high school and college and, for the longest time afterward, thought that was the ONLY way I could work! But multiple client projects of varying lengths have *demanded* I work on some of them daily for a while to move them along. And having supervised others, I learned (trial by fire) to work daily on a project rather than give up my life for several days. All that being said, a significant factor for me is whether or not I like the work I’m doing. Sometimes the clients send stuff that’s a joy to do, and I work long hours because it feels good; but some clients’ jobs, although no less worthy, are more of a chore because the language is odd and convoluted and misused, and I struggle with it: those are the jobs I can put up with for about 45 minutes at a time, and then I need a break. I’ll have to see if I fill those breaks with productive time, or if I do indulgent stuff that isn’t billable. Hmmm.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean… and must admit that even some of this last gig was interesting.

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