Friday, April 25, 2014

Avoid Distractions - Meet Those Deadlines

I don't care if you are published or still on the path to that first contract, one of the first things you need to do to shift your mindset to that of a professional writer is to work with deadlines. This is really the biggest difference between the hobby writer and the professional writer. Think of it this way... if you are working that standard 9-5 job, you know you have to be at work at a set time, stay until a set time or until the work is finished. When the boss asks for a proposal, it has to be done. End of story. The same goes for writing.

However, even though we know there are deadlines, time and time again, I hear authors talk about all of the things that are "getting in the way of their writing." These are distractions and they need to be eliminated at all cost. These distractions will hurt your career.

Now before I go any further, I do understand that some things do get in the way of that writing. Your "day job" suddenly has a new project that needs to get done. The kids get sick... I get it! These are not the distractions we are talking about. The harmful distractions are those things as small as you spending too much time on social media, to the largest of the problems of time management.

I will be very honest, I started thinking about this yesterday when I was at the local college prepping for a class I teach on research. Normally, I really like the social atmosphere of all the adjuncts, however, today, they became a distraction. All I could hear was constant talking about completely random things that had nothing to do with the work they should have been doing. But here was the kicker, as well as being the divine inspiration for the blog. One of the instructors suddenly looked at the clock and proclaimed "Oh my gosh! I have to go teach class and I didn't get any of the work done I needed to."

Hmmmm, I wonder why?

Look, I get that we cannot just stare at a computer for 8 hours a day working with our stories. Oh we would so love to. Think of the number of books you could write? In reality though, we can't. That means that we need to do everything in our power to insure this does not happen. Consider a few small tips:

  • Put in your schedule a set time that you will write daily. No exceptions.
  • Turn off the phone so no one can call you or interrupt your thought process. No exceptions.
  • Turn off the e-mail for that time. Deleting those SPAM messages or the jokes the in-law forwards on can wait. No exceptions
  • Turn off all social media. No exceptions. 
  • Before you write, make sure everything you need for a successful writing time is right there at your desk. You are not getting up for a snack, bottle of water or other distraction. No exceptions.
  • When you have a deadline, then stick to it. In fact, set your deadline BEFORE the real deadline and stick to yours. No exceptions. 
  • Have a back up plan in case Murphy's Law kicks in. No exceptions.
Hey, I get it! We all live busy lives. We all of things that come up. Writing can not always be the entire focus of our day, but you can not let those distractions get in the way of you being that professional writer you wanted to be. Besides, if and when you make to being a published author, you have a lot of people counting on you.

  • Your agent worked hard for you - don't make her look bad if she pushed your case.
  • Your editor believes in you but she has deadlines. 
  • The art department needs you project to begin that gorgeous cover
  • The business department needs your project to begin that marketing campaign
  • The copy editors need your project to catch all of those small glitches
  • And more importantly, your readers need your book to get their daily fix on your amazing writing.