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Sep 23, 2010

Self-Imposed Deadlines Are Real Deadlines


I work from a home office with a large whiteboard. I put all my deadlines for the next three months on this board, with little boxes to check them off when I finish each item. I put my classes for graduate school up there, and also my writing projects.

I was speaking with a friend on the phone the other day and stressing a little because I was behind on one of my writing goals, which meant that the due date for another writing goal would be pushed up to coincide with a school goal. I didn't want that to happen, so I dedicated a few nights to stay up until three or four in the morning to put in the extra work to meet the deadline. I still have to get up in the night to nurse, and then rise early to send the hubby and toddlers off to work/preschool, so that meant I didn't get much sleep.

This had consequences. I was tired and grumpy, which annoyed my friend.

"You keep talking about writing deadlines, but you don't have any real deadlines," she said. "So why would you do that to yourself?"

Right. I can't have real writing deadlines because writing isn't real work.

No, no, she said. "But you can do it whenever you want and it doesn't matter if you really do it right away or not."

Look, I understand her point. One reason I want to be a writer is exactly so I can write whenever I want -- but this means imposing my own deadlines, not escaping them.

The distinction may be fine, but it's important.

It was especially frustrating because around the same time, a relative chided me for not being "focused" enough, and I should "get a real job." You know, because being a stay-at-home mom with a three month old infant AND going to school AND publishing a book -- not one of those counts as a "real" job.

I don't say this often, but... screw you. I work damn hard. At real work. With real deadlines. And maybe the world doesn't particularly value mothering, academic research or writing fiction, but that doesn't mean the things I do have no value.


Ok, on a more positive note, I was tagged with a Prolific Blogger award by Jai at Jai Joshi's Tulsi Tree, and now I have to figure out who among the many awesome blogs I read am going to tag myself. I have to admit, I always worry a bit when I get one of these awards, because of the chain-letter/ponzi scheme pyramid structure of the meme. But I also feel really happy that someone thought of me, and no money or cursing is involved ;) so I will pass it on. But first I have to think about who to choose! Argh! There are so many good blogs.... I'm thinking I might tag some of the blogs where I read but never comment, because I feel bad I never comment. Check here later for updates.


C. N. Nevets said...


Not really deadlines???? Not real deadlines???? How is a deadline not real just because you set it for yourself???

See, professionals do that. They set goals for themselves and then they meet them. They set deadlines for themselves so they know how to prioritize. For crying out loud.

I know that 3/4's of the world talks about writing a novel at some point, but there's a difference between people who put, "writing," down on a list of hobbies and people who consider themselves writers.

You know what accounts for most that difference?

Setting deadlines! For yourself! For real!

Sorry, probably shouldn't just feed off and back into your frustration, but that just blows my mind, and I had to growl and grumble.

You may delete if you wish. :)

*deep breath*

Jamie D. said...

Um...that's just ridiculous. It's not just writing deadlines that I set for myself, I do the same thing at my day job. It's just part of being organized, efficient, and making sure things get done.

I have a plan for the business part of my writing, as most writers looking to make money do...yourself included. In order to make that plan yield results, deadlines (and sticking to them) are very important.

Bummer your friend can't see that.

Tara Maya said...

It's helpful, actually, Nevets, to see at least someone *gets* it.

I had to tone the post before I finally put it up. :)

Tara Maya said...

Thanks, Jamie.

I agree: any entrepreneur has to do this. And if this person had no understanding of that, I wouldn't even have been as mad. But this person actually was an entrepreneur and should understand this. But it wasn't in the "arts" you see. It was business. So somehow that's real but a creative business is not.

Ok, yeah, I don't have investors and I don't work with a budget of millions, but I still have this little thing called a "work ethic." But I guess artists are all supposed to be flakes, so if you're an artist, you're a flake. Argh!

C. N. Nevets said...

I actually edited and toned my comment. hahaha

Tara Maya said...


Tere Kirkland said...

Don't see the difference between setting goals for yourself and self-imposed deadlines.

Would someone tell you to stop working so hard toward your goal? Towards your dreams? I don't think so. The problem is that too many people see writing as a hobby, and not a profession unless you have a shelf of pubbed books to your name.

Sounds like you have plenty on your plate already, so you need to write when you find the time, even if that's late at night. Good for you for sticking to your deadlines!

SandyG said...

I have always been very proud of your work ethic! How many people have helped homeless kids, swam in a tank in a mermaid costume, defended people threatened by anti-democratic regimes, mothered (and nursed!) three children (it's pretty hard to write when you are nursing), and consistently published the stories and books and art that you have? Of course it would be nice if you could narrow down the vast number of subjects that pique your interest so you could get through your graduate program in a reasonable time...

scott g.f.bailey said...

This is the main reason I don't talk about writing to people who aren't writers or otherwise in publishing: they just don't get it and it pisses me off. Though I'm just as bad with topics I know nothing about or that don't interest me.

C. N. Nevets said...

lol Scott. That's another of the reasons I do the pen name thing. The less the people at work (etc.) know about my writing, the less chance they'll ask me an asinine question about it, or try to pass along some bit of wisdom that they picked up from their old gym teacher.

Tara Maya said...

Yeah, I use a pen name too, but some of my friends and relatives how discovered my secret identity.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

Amen to that! Writing deadlines are real deadlines, otherwise there'll never be books written, queried, and agented (thus creating "real deadlines"), sold to publishers (for more "real deadlines") for publication for readers. Hiss at the idea that these are fake deadlines. Excellent rant.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Yeah, I've actually lost friends because of this because they didn't understand. They thought I was giving up my time with them for "just a hobby" and thought it was completely unfair. Sigh. Oh well.

So I get this. I really do. My work here at home with my child and writing isn't real work. I'm just playing...


Hey, at least you know WE get it.

Jai Joshi said...

Tara, I TOTALLY understand your rant because I've done the same rant over and over again.

Here's something that non-writers will never understand because they just don't get it:

A writer's self imposed deadline is essential! It's our way of disciplining ourselves and making ourselves be serious about our work. Can you imagine if Shakespeare never disciplined himself enough to write King Lear? Or Othello? Or Hamlet? The world would be a much less interesting place.


kaikaku said...

I write a webcomic and I get people bugging me about the deadline thing all the time. The truth is, if you don't take your deadlines seriously you'll be lucky to finish things.