No Pressure: 5 Tiny Tips for Writing Without a Deadline

A very talented writing student of mine wrote to me over the weekend, and brought up a difficult subject for a lot of authors – how to stay focused when there’s no looming deadline to act as an incentive. Personally, I know I often have a hell of a time working when I don’t have a particular time it needs to be finished, and I still haven’t perfected a way to really guarantee work gets done. After all, not writing is the easiest thing in the world, as the saying goes. However, I do have a few pointers that I’ve found helpful in the past:

Outline. A lot of writing projects stall out because a writer just sits down at the computer and kinda hopes that magic will happen. That’s risky, to put it politely, and can lead to some pretty disorganized stories. You don’t need much of an outline to get started, and it can certainly change over time, but you do need one.

Routine. Write 5 days a week, without fail. You pick the five, but try to be consistent. Routine is important. I like Sunday through Thursday, but choose whatever suits you.

Goals. Start off by setting a small writing goal for each day, like 250 words. If you go over, fine – but it doesn’t carry over. In other words, writing 750 words doesn’t mean you get the next two days off. That just invites disruption to your writing routine. It just means you did really well that day.

Just Write. Resist the temptation to edit as you write. Sure, you can fix a glaring mistake if you notice one, but don’t try to seriously edit and write simultaneously. They’re very different operations with very different mindsets, and you’ll wind up seriously slowing down your progress, if not stalling out entirely.

Relax. If you miss a goal or a day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Life is a decidedly chaotic experience, and inevitably things will happen that disrupt your routine. Just shrug, stick to your outline, and get back to work the next day.

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