Deadlines and Habits

I’ve been thinking about Gary’s post on deadlines from last week. There are two types of things that I get done: things that have deadlines, and things that are habits.

Deadlines are great motivators. I use the Writers of the Future quarterly deadline to motivate myself to write four short stories a year. I’ve entered contests on a writing forum to motivate me to write more stories. I am only writing this blog post right now to meet my weekly deadline.

But I don’t have many “real” writing deadlines, and I have never been good at making up deadlines for myself. My brain is smarter than me, it knows those are fake. That’s where my habits come in.

A few days ago I hit 100 days in my chain of writing at least 250 words a day. That is a very small amount of words, and some of them will never see the light of day. Others, though, helped me finish five short stories and one novel and develop the settings and characters for my next novel. I considered stopping after day 100, but it felt weird, so I’ll keep that habit up for a while longer. It’ll help me make progress on things even without deadlines.

More important than the daily words, though, is my schedule. I write on weekdays at lunch and after dinner, and on weekends right after breakfast, because…that’s what the schedule says to do. Sometimes it’s writing and sometimes revising and sometimes it’s planning, but there’s always something I can work on in those time slots. Writing at lunch has definitely become a habit, and writing on weekend mornings works pretty well most if the time too. Evenings are a bit of a struggle because of all the other things that have piled up during the day, but most days I put the time in. (I am not getting up at 4:30 a.m. to write before work. I’d fall asleep at my desk, and it’s a standing desk so that would be painful.)

This was a long way of saying: Deadlines – useful if you have them. Habits – useful whether you have deadlines or not.

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