One of the hardest parts of being a writer, or doing any type of creative work, is getting it finished. Because we type away at our own pace, get distracted by the ding of Instant Messages, have friends and family that don't see our creativity as a "real job" and have no bosses breathing down our necks... it's really easy to put off the writing until tomorrow. Or next week. Or a month from now.
I've discovered that there are a few things that can help us to create our own deadlines, and help ourselves to actually stick to them.
Deadline Tip #1: Make A Goal
It doesn't matter if your goal is to submit articles to 10 magazines a month, rewrite 5 chapters of your manuscript or apply for a job in the writing/editing industry. Take the time to figure out what it is you want to accomplish, and write it down. I have a white-board above my monitor for such goals which makes it easy to edit them, check them off and then erase them once they've been met and new goals are ready to take their place.
Tell Someone About It
Call your mom and tell her that you are going to meet 3 writer's agents this quarter. Tell your husband that if you chicken out on submitting an article to the weekly paper you'll wash his car once a week for a month. Insist that your friends begin referring to you as "Author(ess)" when they call. Give all of them permission to ask you about your project every time you see or talk to them.
Designate Rewards (and punishments)
When you make your goal, plan a reward for meeting it. And a punishment for not. Maybe when you sell your short-story you celebrate by buying a pair of killer-red heels. Perhaps if you don't meet your word count for the the week you drag yourself to the gym for an hour with the personal trainer from hell. Whatever they are, make the rewards something worth working towards - and the punishments something worth avoiding.
Give Yourself Performance Reviews
One of the most dreaded things when you do have a "real job" is the performance review. Even when I do a GREAT job at work, when it's review time I wonder if the boss recognizes the extra time I'm putting in to finish the current "big project", or if they've noticed I've been siphoning off post-it notes for the last six months. Luckily, giving yourself a review doesn't have to be so stressful. But it can be a great way for you to assess your weaknesses and strengths, take an honest look at what you are trying to accomplish and how well your present tactics are working and give you a chance to evaluate the direction your work is going.
At our core, when we work for ourselves we know what it is we need to be doing to be successful and unfortunately it is up to no one but us to get those things done so we can take a step forward into the next project. Personally, I am in a goal-writing frenzy to catch up with the time lost due to "life" this summer and I sure as hell don't want to let myself down.