Deadline

thefullerview.tumblr.comI struggle with the craft of writing. I block the words in my head because my doubting voice tells them they’re ugly or ungraceful or stupid, so I don’t write them down. And perhaps they are all those things but unless I acknowledge them and give them page time, they’ll never receive a makeover or an idea transplant. They shall remain doomed.

I’m working on this, desperately trying to detain my self-editor because it’s a word-bully who’s currently facing multiple charges of idea smothering. I’m writing. Slowly. One word at a time, and if my self-editor meets its bail conditions I might let it help me with second draft.

Then there’s my procrastination. Twitter. Pinterest. Blogs. I follow a phenomenal number of amazing blogs, so many that I’m beginning to lose track of what I’ve read and what I’ve liked and what I intended to comment upon but haven’t. My inbox is bursting.

Amazingly, for all of my self-destructive anti writing behaviour, I’m surprised how much I try to write. And as a hardcore procrastinator it is interesting to see how my ‘procrastinations’ emerge under circumstances where I have no boundaries. I don’t have writing goals, I have broad sweeping, airy-fairy, non-date-specific inclinations to write stuff.

Great.

No. Actually, it’s not helping. After reading this blog post by Sinéad O’Hart and this Mitten’s Kittens blog post I find myself aware that I’m not motivated by self-imposed deadlines. This is primarily because they are self-imposed. It matters to no-one but myself whether I submit a piece of writing. With my writerly self-confidence lost somewhere under the weight of my writerly self-doubt unfortunately what matters to me lacks a whole heap of writerly conviction.

I tortured myself with deadlines at university. If I had four weeks to complete an assignment, my doubting voice would say ‘don’t start it yet’, ‘you have heaps of time’, ‘what if you fail?’ and ‘what if you’re hopeless?’. Of course, the longer I delayed the project, the louder these voices became until the looming deadline forced me into action.

And I’d complete it in two days. Two anxiety riddled, sickening, stressful days. I did this repeatedly, each time listening to my stupid doubting mind, each time ignoring previous successes, each time undeniably knocking a couple of years off my life expectancy. And my rational voice chastises me and asks ‘why did you put yourself under that kind of pressure?’ and ‘why didn’t you start it four weeks ago?’, to which my doubting voice would smugly reply ‘because it would have taken four weeks’.

Dammit. That’s a good point.

If I had utilised the entire four weeks my doubting voice would only switch to saying, ‘that’s not good enough’, ‘do it again’ or ‘it still needs work’. Sure, my anxiety and stress levels would have dropped several notches, but I’d still be handing it over in the final hour. Deadlines make me finish.

And I’m writing without one.

 

Suggestions welcome.

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3 thoughts on “Deadline

  1. I feel a bit guilty reading this post, because I hope what I wrote in ‘Keeping Up’ didn’t make you feel bad or under pressure… that wasn’t my intention, of course. To be honest, I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying here. I actually work very well to deadlines, too – they normally help me to focus my mind. I don’t like the idea of missing one, and I have never turned in work late. Not so far, at least.

    When you say ‘it matters to no-one but myself whether I submit a piece of work’, are you implying that because it only matters to you, it doesn’t really matter? If it matters to no-one but you, I think that should make it the most important thing in the world. You’re important, and what makes you happy is important. If you want to submit something you’ve written to a competition or to a magazine, the fact that it matters to you means that it *matters*.

    It gets better over time, is what I’ve discovered. Every story you write makes writing the next one easier; every story you submit makes submitting the next one easier. Taking the first step is terrifying, but after that the path is smooth. You just need to stop telling yourself you can’t do it. I know how hard it is, because I struggle with it every day too. Telling your inner voice to shut up can be done, though. And I believe in you.

    • Gosh, no. Please don’t feel guilty! I’m just commenting on the stage I’m at, trying to better understand it in my own mind. And probably venting some frustration in the process. I didn’t mean to imply that what matters to me isn’t important, only that my writing solely affects me. I am not relying on it financially now or in the future, I haven’t outlaid money to start writing and I have no deadlines. My belief that writing matters is the only thing currently moving my writing forward but in combination with my doubting voice, I’m petrified it’s not enough and I feel stuck in first gear. Having said that, I know I’m not ready to fill my calendar with submission deadlines. Not yet. But then, five months ago I wasn’t ready to start a blog… TA DA!

      I need to write more, grow more confidence, get more feedback, practice, practice, practice. It is REALLY reassuring to hear that the inner voice can be tamed. Thank you *hugs* for believing in me.

      By the way, your rash and impulsive side didn’t make it through Australian quarantine and you should get it back shortly. We may have to harness cloning technology 😉

      • Bugger. You Australians and your tight border security. We’ll have to come up with a Plan B!

        I’m glad to know you do believe your writing is important. And hey – what’s wrong with first gear? 🙂 I *am* trying to make a career out of writing, and I *have* poured everything I am into making that happen. That’s probably why I’m hitting deadlines and submitting left, right and centre. Take things slowly, write what you enjoy and enjoy what you write, and love each word. Go as slowly as you like. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. I think you’re doing just fine. *hug*

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