Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

Picking Your Deadlines

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In the previous post, we read about how Creativity can use deadlines to reach creative heights. Now I’m sure most of us cringe at the idea of deadlines, remembering the stomach churning weeks of stress and the long nights of last minute work which accompanied the previous deadline we endured. Or even worse, remembering the feeling of having a deadline and not the slightest whiff of an idea.

There are, however, two types of deadlines – the ones imposed on us by others and the ones we impose upon ourselves. I’ll save the first one for another post. Today we’ll focus on the second.

Why Use a Deadline?

If you’re not already on the clock for a boss or publisher, why should you pick a deadline?

As highlighted on Monday, constraints often serve to increase your Creativity’s potential. It gives him/her something to kick against. Some obstacle to climb.

Without a deadline you will too often end up with great ideas but no result. You deserve to have work to show for your inspiration. So pick a deadline and start showing us what you can do!

When Should I Use a Deadline?

There are many different answers to this question. When it comes to choosing deadlines for yourself, I suggest waiting until after the light of inspiration has hit. Too much pressure to produce the beginnings of an idea can often inhibit the very spark you’re trying to achieve. So, if possible, allow yourself a deadline-free environment for your first inspiration.

Once the idea has hit, and you know it’s something worth doing, then set a deadline. Satellite ideas will start to form and it’s your job to put in the hard hours working on the end result. What better way to make sure those hours of toil get done than working to deadline?

Why Do Deadlines Work?


  • Spur you to action. If you have a date to aim for, and a reason to get moving on your project, the lure of the television becomes that little bit easier to beat.
  • Make you accountable. It’s one thing to pop out creative ideas now and then. It’s another to tie yourself down and definitely say, “I’m going to do something with this idea.” Once you’ve made that commitment, all sorts of things become possible.
  • Help you to schedule. A project without a deadline progresses in fits and starts, if it progresses at all. A deadline encourages you to plan how best to use your allotted time. How many words do you need to average? How many hours a day/week should you spend?
  • Reinforce the importance of your project. With a deadline on the way, you’re less likely to make excuses. Your accountability makes you take things more seriously. If you have a deadline, then your work must be important, right?
  • Encourage you to declare a project finished. We tend to tinker with a project as it nears completion. A finishing touch here. A final tweak there. The truth is, there will always be something to fiddle with. A deadline provides a cut-off point. The day when you stand back and let your baby go – be it into the draw for some distance time, or off to the publisher for some slush pile time.

How to Set Your Deadline

Okay, so you’ve decided you need a deadline for your project. How do you go about setting it?

  1. Pick a reasonable date. Decide how much time this project will plausibly take. Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Don’t be unreasonable, but don’t be too lenient either. Remember, constraints spur your Creativity on. That’s why NaNo WriMo is so popular. It sounds crazy when you first think about what’s involved, but it is doable.
  2. Inform friends. One of the beauties of deadlines is the accountability. For accountability to be a factor, other people need to know about your deadline. They can cheer you on, show an interest in your progress, celebrate your achievements and commiserate with you during the down times. Try folding a few people into your dreams. You’ll be surprised by the results.
  3. Set smaller goals. Big projects can be daunting, so break things up into chunks. Perhaps you want to write 500 words a day. When you sit down in your chair and become mesmerized by the blank white, set a goal of one word. Then one sentence. Chip away at it until you meet your quota. If your big project is a completed manuscript, set each chapter as a goal.
  4. Implement a reward system. Decide how you’re going to reward yourself for each goal achieved and especially how you’re going to celebrate reaching your deadline. Will there be partying, or just a favourite meal? Make your time and effort (and your Creativity’s blood, sweat and tears) worthwhile. If you make this deadline fun, then you’ll be excited about the next one.

Now, over to you. What points have you found important when setting deadlines?

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


Author: Jessica

I'm a writer who refuses to pin myself down to one genre, hopping from science-fiction and fantasy through to literary and even the odd western now and then. Check out what I've written at or follow me on Twitter @jessbaverstock.

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