Deadlines: How to Make Them and Know When to Break Them

Hello all. It’s with a heavy heart that I have to say that my initial writing plans and deadlines have derailed – for the moment. 

If any of your read my first post, you’ll know that my goal was to write 13 series in a little over a year. This is still the overall goal, but unfortunately due to my day job and other outside forces, I wasn’t able to get in any writing for the next series, The Maydale Hauntings, this month (well, there were 10,000 words that I put down, but I’ll likely go back and review the quality since I was distracted from my writing at that time).

As sad as I am about this minor setback, I’m also glad to see that I can make the best of this situation and learn from it. Currently, my life is all about my job, writing deadlines, future goals, start and end dates, successes, and failures. There’s been very little time for friends and family, and even less for myself. April is always the busiest time of year for me, and this year was no exception. With numerous company events and other responsibilities, I didn’t have enough time to sit down and let the words flow as they normally do.

Was That Such a Bad Thing?

A part of me is actually a bit happy that I took a month off of writing. It allowed me the chance to take a step back from my work and assess the whole picture. There were a few things I learned from writing my first four series, and by taking a breather to absorb those lessons I feel that I can grow as a writer. 

The other part of me, however, sees this as a failure. Since November of 2017, I’ve been able to keep my deadlines and produce one full series every month (or half of an extremely long series in the case of The 12 Mile Course). Why couldn’t I power through and do the same in April? I had survived debilitating back issues for over a week at beginning of the year and still made my deadline that month. Why was April so different?

It took a lot of thinking to realize why I was feeling the way I did. All of my series are new, have little to no marketing behind them to gain audience attention, and are more for me than they are for others. In my attempt to create a project of such size and caliber, I’m trying to push the limits of my writing ability and find out where my true niche lies. Am I great at writing comedy? Horror? Sci-fi? Historical fiction? I won’t know until I try. 

What This Means Moving Forward

Now that I’ll have a month off to think and reflect and try not to hate myself for ‘failing a self-inflicted deadline’, I’ve realized that my time doesn’t have to always be spent writing. Part of being a self-published author is that you have to do it all yourself: marketing, financing, accounting, writing, editing, proofreading, etc.. Unless I reach the point where I’m earning enough income from just my writing that I can have my own team of people working under me to edit, promote, and publish my works, it’s entirely up to me to oversee my brand.

Using what I’ve learned from this experience, I’ve changed my schedule to allow for marketing and structuring of my works, as well as taking on freelance writing projects. The next five series I’ll be publishing are: The Maydale Hauntings, The Horrors of Redemption, The Forgotten Murders, The Servants of the Fallen, and The Curse of the Dog.

What Have I learned?

From this experience, I’ve learned that if my deadlines are too rigid or strict that I’m more liable to burn myself out and not be able to work around busy scheduling and daily life. When I finally made the choice to skip April for series production and focus on myself and the backend of writing, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. In previous months, all of my deadlines were more of a schedule, not a dictatorship; I could look at the calendar to see if I was ahead or behind and change accordingly. In April it was more of me looking at the dates for deadlines as they flew by and growing more and more stressed and worried with every day that I wasn’t meeting my goals. This wasn’t healthy to do, of course, which was also a key factor into why I decided to change my original scheduling and deadlines (lots of white out was used in my planning notebooks, trust me).

If there’s one thing you takeaway from my experience, please let it be this: while self-imposed deadlines and goals are important, they aren’t worth damaging your mental or physical health to maintain.

Could I have finished the April series on schedule? Of course. I already had a decent amount written, and if I really wanted to I could have locked myself in my room after work and typed until my fingers bled. That was always a possibility. The reality, though, was that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice enjoying my life to keep to a rigid schedule that I had created last year. Things change, goals and needs change, and life is always changing. I’m planning on taking a trip to Australia this coming August; does that meant that I’ll be taking a vacation from writing during that time? Not likely. I’ve written on trains in Europe, planes from America to Japan, hostels in Dublin, and many more places that one wouldn’t expect to be productive environments for writing. I’m sure that wherever I head in Australia this summer, I’ll be able to get in a few thousand words or so no problem.

In Conclusion

Don’t sacrifice your wellbeing for your work. The same goes with full-time jobs, part-time jobs, seasonal work, personal work, freelance work, and whatever else you may find yourself doing in life. Everyone has their breaking point, and it’s up to us to know when we’re getting close enough that we need to back off and take a breather. I’ve gone years without writing a single word after trying to pump out a classic without rest; I’d rather not repeat my past mistakes and turn my back on an activity that I love and enjoy doing. I hope that others can learn from my mistakes, and keep working towards their goals at a healthy, reasonable pace.

Have you ever made and broken your own personal deadlines? How do you set your deadlines, and what do you do if you don’t meet them? Let us know in the comments below! Let’s get a discussion going, yeah?

Happy reading, writing, working, and living!

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