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Deadlines Are Your Friend

The dreaded deadline

I'm working on two books with two book coaches and have two deadlines to meet in the next four weeks.

Part of me wants to scream "I CAN'T DO IT!" and plead for an extension. Part of me wants to retreat to the couch and binge-watch Queer Eye. And there's that part of me that knows this is the only way I will ever get the work done.

Speaking of work, I have a lot ahead of me. For Book #1, a memoir about self-trust, my coach is asking for a draft of an "inside outline," a tool developed by book coach Jennie Nash that helps writers marry their plot story arc with the protagonist's internal journey.  For Book #2, a self-help book about grief, my coach is asking for me to revise my "Blueprint for a Book," another Jennie Nash tool that helps writers build a firm foundation for their books before they begin writing.

Why I have two books going on at the same time with two different book coaches is a story for another day, but suffice it to say, I've got to get my rear in gear.

Why and How We Procrastinate

We all do it, right? We put off tasks that feel hard like writing and do tasks we can manage, like laundry and organizing our socks. Or binge-watching Netflix.

Procrastination isn't about laziness or a lack of self-control. It's usually about something much deeper, such as fear of failure. What if I actually put my butt in the chair and write and it turns out my writing sucks? 

We know it's against our best interest to procrastinate. The writing isn't going to be any easier tomorrow, plus we're piling on shame and guilt for not having done what we said we'd do.

Creating Urgency

One way to combat procrastination is to create urgency when there isn't any naturally built-in to your writing process. When we were students and had papers due, most of us would get them done, even if it meant pulling an all-nighter. If we work for a company, our job security and compensation are tied to meeting deadlines imposed by others. But how does this work if it's just you and your blank computer screen with nobody waiting for your work?

You have to create your own urgency. Set specific and realistic deadlines for yourself with rewards you really want ("If I finish drafting Chapter 2 by Friday, I will make a reservation at the new Italian restaurant for Sunday night") OR penalties that will really hurt if you don't follow through ("If I don't meet my Friday deadline, I will have to make a $50 donation to Donald Trump's campaign that day."). Want to make it even more likely that you follow through? Find a partner who needs accountability too and help hold each other accountable. 

What Works For Me

I can't get my writing done without a deadline. Full Stop. I've had some success with deadlines imposed by writing groups and writing partners, but by far the bulk of my success in getting the work done has come through working with a book coach.

I'm motivated by money, specifically by not wasting money. Back in the day when I was a bit more flush, I used to work out with a personal trainer. I would NEVER not show up for a workout session because I was paying good money for that time.

It's been the same working with my book coaches. Typically, I've purchased a certain number of "deadlines," which include a review of the pages I submit plus a call to discuss the feedback. We map out the submission dates and phone calls in advance.

These deadlines aren't cheap, and I am! That's my motivation to get the work done!

What I've Learned On the Coaching Side of the Equation

When I first started coaching writers, I wanted to be nice. I wanted to be accommodating. If someone asked for an extension, I'd give it, no questions asked. If someone wanted to pause their coaching package, I'd let them.

Guess what happened to those writers? They never got their work done. They never finished their books.

What I learned was that being "nice" and "accommodating" wasn't helpful. What writers want and need is someone to hold their feet to the fire, someone who helps create a structure and a system so that they get their butt in the chair.

These days, I enter into a contract with my writers that communicates clear expectations. When we set a deadline, my writers know I've reserved that time for them. They know that if they don't meet their deadlines, they have to wait until I'm available again and they may possibly lose the opportunity to receive feedback on a set of pages.

Guess what's happening with my writers now? They're getting their work done.

Deadlines are your friend. Find a way to create your own deadlines and get support in meeting them. Consider hiring a book coach who will provide not only accountability but also ongoing feedback on your writing. 

Check out my book coaching offerings. I'd love to help you get your book project off the ground and all the way to the finish line.

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