Home > Writing and Poetry > Deadlines – Necessary to the Creative Process?

Deadlines – Necessary to the Creative Process?

My guest yesterday brought up an interesting point during her interview. She said that when she came to a point where she had no deadlines looming, breathing down her neck for story completion, she lost all focus and just stopped writing.

I’m wondering if many writers face the same dilemma. I can understand it. Whether the deadline is self-imposed or comes from elsewhere, it obligates the writer to produce. Parameters have been set within which the writer must perform or lose the commission, or the sale, or an opportunity to shine.

We’re geared for it, if you really think about it. When we were in school, we had homework assignments. It started in grade school and worked all the way through college. Many of our jobs had deadlines attached, which told us just how much play time was available for the person or team involved.

 So, why should writing be any different? It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a course or writing for a contest, or for yourself and a possible submission. Deadlines are paramount. The problem, however, seems to arise from those deadlines mandated by ourselves for our own timelines, which have no hard connection to an outside obligation.

For instance, on the ICL Writer’s Retreat, members have a monthly write off. A prompt is given with guidelines and the same kind of detail that any magazine would throw at us. We’re also given deadlines for both posting and voting. Oh, did I forget to mention voting? Well, posting an entry that follows guidelines runs from the 28th of the month to the 30th/31st. February has special deadlines.

During that submission time, members of the Retreat are encouraged to look at each story, article, poem, what-have-you, and either review or critique as the author requests. (Keep in mind that most of these pieces will probably be submitted to the outside world later, so that critiquing is quite serious.)

At the end of that period of reading/critiquing come a voting period of usually three days. During that time each member who wishes can come on the main voting thread and cast a ballot for whichever author the voter feels deserves to win recognition for having presented the best entry for that prompt.

Yessiree, it’s a monthly contest; one without prizes other than the pats on the back by the others voting, subbing, or just hanging out. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. There are some really good writers over there, and this is their monthly practice run.

Now, I can tell you for true that our Miss Kate of yesterday’s interview has taken that prize more times than anyone else. And deservedly so. Now, the reason for my mentioning any of this is because it proves the point.

 Some of these writers have never entered a contest. This becomes their proving grounds. Some have little faith in their own abilities and take away a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses. Some need that deadline to create under pressure something that stands out in a crowd and gathers an audience. We each get to practice the real world reality without the worry of rejection or fault. We get great critical help finding those places that need work; the places that we can’t see for ourselves, or which confuse the reader that didn’t write it. And we get to learn just how fast we can put our creativity to work in order to throw together some meaningful-looking story on the spur of the moment because we forgot that we were entering and we have three days to do it. After all, life does get in the way sometimes and leaves us little time to play.

Therefore, Kate was far more accurate than she might have thought about deadlines and their necessity. It isn’t just her that needs them in order to keep on track and focused. It’s anyone who’s gone through the school system and learned that the only time to get creative is when you need a paper ready to hand in for a class three hours from now that you’ve spaced for the last month. Life got in the way of worrying about getting the paper done. At the last-minute life had to take a backseat to the importance of that paper and the hastily gathered research with lots of numbers. Gotta get it done. It’s gonna be a quarter of the final grade.

I’m sure many can relate. You see how important deadlines are. Who says you can live without them. You have them all through your life. It’s called mortgage payments and utility bills. Credit card payments and those for the car. Or, what about car maintenance so the beast won’t leave you stranded. Sorry, didn’t mean to remind you about that one. They’re the kids’ teacher conferences and report cards. The delivery date for the last baby in the family. We live with them without seeing them.

Writers are lucky. We get to depend on them and look forward to them, if we’re smart and lucky.

Have a great weekend and look forward to Monday. Donna McDine will join me and pop in and out all day to bandy words with those who like to kibbutz.

A bientot,


Categories: Writing and Poetry
  1. Colorado Kate
    January 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    “It’s anyone who’s gone through the school system and learned that the only time to get creative is when you need a paper ready to hand in for a class three hours from now that you’ve spaced for the last month…. At the last-minute life had to take a backseat to the importance of that paper and the hastily gathered research with lots of numbers. Gotta get it done. It’s gonna be a quarter of the final grade.”

    Clauds! You must have been spying on me all through high school and most of my undergrad years. In high school, I tended to turn in handwritten papers for English and philosophy, because I’d write them during my first-period (boring) history class, the day they were due.

    I really am much better now, though. Really.

  2. January 10, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Again, Clauds, you have taken a comment and turned it to a great good for all of us. I am thoroughly enjoying your interviews AND your following comments. This has been such a great learning period for me and I will be back for more.

    ~ Yaya
    Yaya’s Changing World

  1. April 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm

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