Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Indie Life - Self-Imposed Deadlines

Indie Life is a monthly feature (2nd Wednesday) sponsored by the Indelibles where indie authors post about life as an indie author. Hop through the links below to see all kinds of post on indie life.

This post ("The Problem With Self-Imposed Deadlines") by Adam Heine prompted one of my typical epic-comments:
I'm a HUGE user of self-imposed deadlines (even before I was an indie writer). 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.
Once you start selling your writerly work to someone - whether it's readers, agents, or editors - you start to have deadlines. And those deadlines have consequences. If you miss a contract deadline with an editor, you may not get published. It tends to be less dramatic with agents, but if you don't meet their deadlines, they can't do their job of selling your work. Sometimes agents and editors will actually impose OPPOSITE deadlines - delaying the submission of a new work, even if it's ready to go, because they haven't finished trying to sell your first work.

For indies, it's a bit different.
We set our own deadlines. This is a great freedom, and I think I would crawl out of my skin having to sit on a work for a long period of time before publication. I have a hard time waiting, period. (It's a character flaw, I know.) But having this freedom also means that indie authors tend to push themselves to write faster, publish sooner, do it now, now, now. The consequences of missing your self-imposed deadlines aren't agents or editors upset: it's readers who want to see your work. In my mind, this is much, much worse.

I know it's not just me that feels the pressure, but I'm certain I'm one of the worst offenders: I'm a workaholic by nature and the freedom of being indie and publishing at will just feeds that mania. My perfectionist nature is the only thing that puts any kind of brakes on this process. (Hello internal conflict, my old friend...)

My Challenge
I tend to hyper focus on production, getting words on the page and hitting milestones like sending my work to critique partners or copyeditors or making my publishing targets. I create business plans and production schedules like this:
It's a problem.

I'm slowly, slowly coming to understand that creative work has to be nourished with down-time from the production mania. This isn't about writing slower=writing better. I think everyone has their own stride at which they work best, and they have to honor that. This is about feeding the creative well, in addition to flexing the creative muscles with productive work.

For me, this means allowing myself time to watch Bollywood videos until I'm comfortable that I'm hitting the right note with the east-indian part of my novel. Or going on a Romantic Comedy bender, to deconstruct and remind myself how romance works in a story. Or paging through gorgeous art books and trawling through Pinterest pages to discover things like this:
This inspires me.

I still set self-imposed deadlines. It's how I operate. But I'm learning that my best production comes when I allow time for creative reflection as well as wordcount. And that I need to factor that into my schedule, or let the schedule slip to allow it. 

And that's okay.

How do you battle the urge to go faster, faster, faster?


INDIE LIFE
Because being Indie doesn't have to mean going it alone.







Copy this linky code to include the linky in your Indie Life posts!
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.simply-linked.com/listwidget.aspx?l=69334987-2a7f-48ea-b1d6-4614953e0005" ></script>

31 comments:

  1. I've been working on upping my production schedule. One thing that helps is that I don't spend days rewriting a first chapter to make sure it includes everything that agents are looking for! I set my deadlines to realistic which means I always surpass them. But I'm also completely okay with putting my publishing date off a month or two to make sure I'm doing it right and doing the best I can.

    But I love the freedom and that I don't have to wait 2 years for a book to come out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the freedom too – if I can just reign in my overly ambitious side, things would go much better. 

      Delete
  2. Just last night I printed out a calendar, one month per page, to figure out my production schedule.
    I love goals and deadlines, but I'm not that good with self-imposed ones, because they are easy to change ;) That's something I plan on "fixing" this year. I want to be more efficient and hit all my self-imposed deadlines.
    When I fell like I'm being pushed to be/do faster, faster, faster, I unplug from the internet and try to forget about others. It's easy to get carried away when others can do it so well. But I'm not them. I'm me and I have my own rhythm. And that's okay ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Respecting your own rhythm - and your own process - is so important! And unplugging and forgetting about how other people are doing it is a GREAT way to keep that balance. Best of luck with hitting your self-imposed deadlines! :)

      Delete
  3. I may currently be making myself crazy with my own self imposed deadline. I'm not the best at setting up realistic ones, I like to set up ones that seem like pushing it, under the idea that I'll push harder (5 thousand words a day isn't THAT much, eh?) and then freak out when somehow, I didn't manage to write five thousand words a day, everyday, for six weeks. How could I not manage to do that?

    But I'm finding more and more that you're right. Taking a time out for creative reflection, watching Bollywood movies or whatever it happens to be at the time, does so much to get myself going. If I take a bit of time for reflection, then I jump back in and get so much more done, in short periods of time, than I would have thought possible--whereas, without breaks, and pushing it harder and faster all the time, I end up sluggish and turning out monstrous beasts that make less sense, and then end up on the self-doubt train of "how do I words?!" ...which is never a good place to be.

    I usually call the creative reflection time a break, but I think I'm going to be using your "creative reflection" term from here on out. Sounds more productive and like something I can try and work into my next self imposed deadline schedule! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, man, look at how long that comment is! What was that you were saying about epic length comments?

      Delete
    2. The self-doubt train! I loves it, and so been there. And LOL about your comment length - see how productive you can be when inspired? :) It's just an change of viewpoint, making "breaks" into "productive reflection" times, but viewpoint is everything, yes? I hope that it helps!

      Delete
  4. This is something I've been freaking out about. I'm not fast. Editing takes me months because I fear and abhor it so much. When I see posts about people who can get a book out every other month, I want to take a flying leap out of my office window. But then I slow down and think about WHY I write. It's to produce the best story possible, a story I can own and of which I can be extremely proud. When I remember that, I can slow down and not feel so guilty/panicked about it.

    Reader expectations are also something I'm trying to get used to. I love that people seem to enjoy World of Shell and Bone, but I didn't expect it to gain so many readers quite as fast as it has, so I'm struggling to manage my anxiety about that (even though it's absolutely a dream come true!). I think a good goal for me is to get out two novels a year, and to write the first drafts of three novels. Thank you for sharing your own take on this, Sue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That anxiety, with reader expectations once you have a work out, is UNIVERSAL. I have yet to meet a writer who hasn't experienced it, no matter how they publish. And when I read posts about people writing as fast as they do, I take deep breaths, remind myself that I AM a fast writer, and it doesn't matter anyway - as long as I'm stretching myself and respecting my process, I'm going to write the best thing I can. And that's far more important than just about anything else.

      Good luck!

      Delete
  5. I have to give myself down-time. Every couple of months I notice my writing is off, or I don't want to write, or I find myself doing other things when I should be writing. When this happens, I give myself time (usually a week) to recharge.

    Then I want to come back, and I can do the 12 hour days again and enjoy every minute of it.

    Lauren

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's awesome that you know your process so well! :)

      Delete
  6. I'll admit I'm one of weird ones - I love deadlines. Actually, I thrive on them and if I'm not careful, I tend to busy myself up with way too many deadlines. This year, one of my goals was to slow down - and it's hard. I have self-imposed deadlines and then agent/editor imposed deadlines...it'll be interesting to see how the two will mix and if I can do it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tend to prioritize deadlines other people set for me, but that's really not always best. My self-imposed deadlines are there for a reason too... so sometimes I have to tell people "sorry, I can't do that just yet, I'm under a deadline" and just neglect to say whose deadline it is. :)

      Delete
  7. I've become completely dependent on Google Calendar. I'd die without it. Really.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hmm. How do I battle that urge? I don't know. I'm also a deadline junkie--I have one this Friday, in fact. I NEED them. If I didn't have them, I'd fiddle fart my days away. WITH them, I WORK. I try to remember that publishing isn't a race and that quality far outweighs quantity--I just want quality and quantity to go hand in hand. Which means I work a LOT, lol. It's a vicious cycle. But I think it's one many indies succumb to.

    Great post, Sue!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Note: I've added a code box with the linky code, if you want to include the linky at the bottom of your Indie Life posts.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I write when I'm inspired...and really try to keep the momentum going. But I am a huge believer in breaks and down time- reading, watching movies, living life to get inspired. I am not an introvert at all and also believe in spending time with others. I rely on my Google calendar to keep me organized because I always have too much to do. Good luck with your deadlines. Best :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I need to make sure I make guilt-free "me" time. Sure, I steer away from my writing obligations, but I'm always guilty about it. I need to schedule that time and live in it. That helps me really focus when I'm writing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's one thing I have to admit I don't have much trouble with. I've seen so many deadlines come and go in my work life, that I hardly ever pay attention to them anymore. The time needed to write a story, get it through beta, edit it, get it ready to publish, all that takes as much time as it takes. It might approach a trad-pub schedule if you do it right—it was roughly three years after I started writing White Pickups that it escaped to Amazon and Smashwords.

    This is doing something you love. It shouldn't be stressful. Or often stressful, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree! Now if I could just get the Ambitious Voice in my head to go along with the no-stress thing, we'd all be good. :) Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  13. Glad to see the group is off to a good start! Someone commented on my blog "Did you know the group is based off of you and the IWSG?" I sure did and am very honored and glad the IWSG gave you the idea for Indie Life. There are so many self-published authors and this will be a great resource for them. Rock on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your blessing, Alex! You're IWSG is truly inspirational, in many ways. I'm already pumped seeing the posts coming out of Indie Life - a good idea just keeps multiplying. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  14. I'm wrestling with this myself. I still have a little guy at home who only has preschool for 2 hours of the morning. Fitting in writing around a tight schedule is challenging and I seem to keep beating myself up over it. I know I should just take each day as it comes at me, do my best and be patient, full day kindergarten is next year! :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I try to give myself days off as reward when I reach a goal. I currently have one self-imposed deadline and a few from other sources that are keeping me hopping.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Excellent post. Structure and schedules are imperative, but it's important to make sure there's breaks in there for re-fueling.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I confess that I need more structure and schedules like you have. You're an inspiration on committing to getting things done.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh, yes! Very cool and great points, Sue. I have to take those breaks and step away or I can FEEL my creativity crimping. I love those wedding rings...

    And I'm glad I'm not the only one who deconstructs movies for ideas--LOL! :D <3

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm just beginning to learn the joy of being able to publish when I'm ready. A lot of freedom ... and the instant gratification ain't bad either. :-D

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great information in the post and in comments. I'm new at this and still learning the ropes. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete