Hello, fellow writers! This won't be a long post. I'm in the middle of packing to move, so today, I have a simple challenge for you: set yourself a deadline.

The One Secret to Finishing Your Writing Projects: Set a Deadline

The Power of a Deadline

A funny thing happens when you move.

You start out carefully. Each glass is conscientiously wrapped in six pages of newspaper.  Each collectible is cushioned and boxed as if interred, and each box Sharpied with item, location, and name. Then a few days into this, something strange happens: you realize it doesn't matter.

Those socks didn't need to be separated. Those books? Yeah, they're all going on the same shelf. In fact, that collection of DVDs, though belonging to six different people, really doesn't need to be itemized now, because what matters is getting them to the new location where you can fully express your organizational skills.

It gets worse. If you've got a lot to pack, after a while, this means “put it in a box and tape it up and we are done.” That's because the stress of an approaching deadline suddenly forces you to realize what's important and what is not.

To put it another way, when you're running out of time, you no longer have the luxury of faffing around. That's when you really get down to business.

No More Faffing Around

Do you want to be an effective writer? Set yourself a deadline. Not an “it doesn't matter” deadline. An “if I don't make this it will cost me” deadline. If a date you cannot move casts its ominous shadow over your day, you will suddenly find yourself much less likely to waste time, to write things you don't really want to write, or even to question the story you're trying to tell.

If you convince yourself that the story has to be written and that you don't have the luxury of remaking and tweaking forever, you will find yourself getting that story done.

I need to get back to packing now, but I want to challenge you: set a deadline. DO NOT allow yourself to miss it or move it. Get your story done.

Have you set yourself a deadline before? Let us know in the comments.


Consider this one a new take on the usual practice:

First, pick a scene. It can be a part of your work in progress, or the start of a new story. Don't have a work in progress? Try this writing prompt: while cleaning a fish tank, a worn-out barista receives an unusual phone call.

Second, set your fifteen minutes, and absolutely do not allow yourself more for this piece.

Third, write it. Don't let yourself fudge. Don't go over—if you haven't finished in fifteen minutes, you can do that on your own time, but post your fifteen minutes of work in the comments below. No cheating!

Share your practice in the comments section and don't forget to respond to your fellow writers' words.

Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

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