The Problem With Self-Imposed Deadlines

The trilemma above is a universal for any project. And I've realized this is exactly why my self-imposed deadlines almost never work. I mean, I'll set them, but then I'll get stuck on something, or a problem will appear that I didn't foresee. And once my deadline is broken, replacing it just feels . . . fake.

My self-imposed deadlines don't work because, in the querying and submission stages, the choice above is made for me:

CHEAP, because nobody's paying me. (The only way it could be cheaper is if I paid for the privilege to write which, really, yuck).

GOOD, because if it's not my best stuff, then nobody will ever pay me.

In a way, it's kind of nice. I don't have to choose! I can take all the time I need to make it right, and it's okay.

Under real deadlines, now, I'm a pro. But that's usually because somebody gave them to me. With money. And an implicit declaration of which of these three is least important to them.

I can do that.

How about you? Do self-imposed deadlines work for you?


Matthew MacNish said...

Nope. I don't do deadlines. Not self imposed ones, at least.

And this post is really interesting. It makes me realize why I'm such a great performer at my job, and yet such a slow writer at my ... hobby? Passion? Hoped-for-second-career? I'm not sure what writing is for me yet.

The good news is that if I ever do get to become a professional at it, I know I'll be able to step up my game (especially if I can ever afford to quit my other job).

Anonymous said...

Self-imposed deadlines don’t work for me, unless you count NaNoWriMo as one. Which is probably why I never get any of my stories done—and when I do, they’re never very good.

Yolanda Renée said...

They did in the past, but for some reason I've become a slacker, and just push them forward.

Maybe it's the animal itself -- writing?

Or that it's never good enough, perfection is unreachable...

Sarah Ahiers said...

I'll set goals, but they're not deadlines with a date and junk. There's no use making things more stressful for me

R.S. Bohn said...

No self-imposed deadlines. They feel fake from the start -- I know I can break them, and that's probably it. But regardless, I know there is nothing that will happen if the deadline isn't reached.

Instead, I've started enjoying the journey. Maybe that came with turning 40 last year. But deadlines, shmeadlines. I'll have another glass of wine and write some more today.

Steve MC said...

Whenever I rush something, I always see a way it could be improved as soon as I hit Send.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Douglas Adams

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm a HUGE user of self-imposed deadlines (even before I was an indie writer). I even impose deadlines when I'm doing things for other people and THEY don't require a deadline (or at least not as tight as the one I impose on myself). Why? Need to control the process and impose discipline, mostly. I know if I don't sit down today and work like crazy (and the next day, and the next day after that...) there is no possible way to hit the deadlines I've mapped out for 2013.

Sometimes the choice is between fast and good, but for me, with my self-imposed deadlines, it's really a race to get to GOOD by a certain date. GOOD is the finish line; if I can't get there by the deadline, the deadline moves... but I'm not a happy camper about it. Which motivates me to work even harder.

I'm also somewhat crazy. Which explains a lot, actually.

Unknown said...

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with self-imposed deadlines. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes I just can't get myself motivated. But with no one but myself (and a few friends) caring if I ever get published, if I don't say "okay, this has to happen, now" it will never get done. Or it will in 10 years, which is just too long to wait.