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Meet Elizabeth S. Craig.

Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries and Memphis Barbeque mysteries for Penguin Random House and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently.
She grew up a fan of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Scooby Doo, and the Hardy Boys before migrating to Agatha Christie. As an adult, she discovered mysteries by M.C. Beaton (especially the Hamish Macbeth series) and realized she wanted to be a cozy mystery writer.
She blogs at ElizabethSpannCraig.com/blog , named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers.  She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine WritersKB.com. Writers can look up any writing-related subject in the search engine to receive results from thousands of writing blogs.
Elizabeth makes her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband and two teenage children.

 

Guest Post – 3 Ways for Writers to Use Deadlines

I live by deadlines.  As a writer, most people would expect that.  Publishers like writers to submit work on time. I think most writers have a love-hate relationship with deadlines.

Actually, most everyone lives with deadlines.  We might not even think of them as deadlines.  The timer on the dryer?  It’s a special kind of deadline.  “Hey, pull that shirt out or you’ll be ironing for the next fifteen minutes!”

Deadlines to buy a present for an anniversary?  Our child’s birthday?  Christmas?  Life itself is a deadline.

Some deadlines are self-imposed.  These types of deadlines are what give structure to our lives.  They allow us to grow.

I started getting serious about personal deadlines about twelve years ago.   I had a scamp of a preschooler at the time–the kind of kid you affix deadbolts on your doors for and hide your keys from.  I had a baby who was just getting into the Cheerio stage.

And I decided to set a deadline for myself.  I wanted to write a book by the end of the year.

There were friends and family who questioned this.  Was this really the right time to write a book?  Didn’t I just want to put my feet up during baby’s naptime?  But I decided there was never a right time to write a book.   When are we not busy?  It’s just that the busyness changes, isn’t it?   It goes from sleep loss and diaper changing to carpools and soccer games to college visits to work demands to travel-packed retirements.

I decided there would never be that fictional cabin in the mountains with the scenic view and the complete and utter lack of a daily agenda.

I’ve used deadlines three important ways in my life:

The first way I’ve used deadlines is to get work done.  Writers talk a lot about goals.  We have project goals and word count goals. Goals are these sorts of nebulous things.  They are vague and forgiving.  Goals are shockingly similar to wishes…I want to lose ten pounds.  I want to exercise three days a week.  I want to learn Spanish.  I want to win the lottery and own a mansion and a yacht.  There’s an air of unreality to them.  They’re not solid.

Deadlines are tools to break goals into manageable bits.  My goal was: I want to write a book.  My deadlines were:  Each day, I’ll write a page.

If you write a page a day, you’ll have a very long book by the end of the year.  While writing a page a day twelve years ago, I learned that yes…you can write a page in the fifteen minutes your baby will watch Elmo’s World on Sesame Street.  Over the years, my writing goal and deadlines have grown.  But the concept is the same…set a manageable goal with an accompanying deadline to ensure success.

The second way I’ve used deadlines is to avoid distraction and maintain focus.
At first, the distractions were easy enough to avoid…the ringing phone didn’t have to be answered…there was an answering machine for that.  Yes, there was preschool pick up time, but you can easily squeeze a page of writing in when you’re in the carpool line.

Then the distractions became sneakier…the internet. Email.  Twitter.  And the biggest, baddest  time suck of them all….Facebook.

With deadlines, however, I knew I had work to accomplish first before doing anything else.  This stubborn determination to make my deadline, and my fatal fascination with the internet motivated me to get up earlier.  And then earlier.  Until finally I settled on somewhere between the hours of four and five a.m.  There are not many distractions at that hour.  And when you meet a daily deadline, you enjoy that smug feeling all day.

The third way I’ve used deadlines in my life is to develop dreams and brainstorm long-term planning.

Most of us have ideas for ways we’d like to enjoy our future.  Maybe we want to travel more.  Or further our education.  Maybe it’s even something small like exploring new places in uptown Charlotte with our spouse.  Developing a hobby or interest.

For me, I noticed these plans or ideas had a habit of not actually coming true.   I found the only way to make these sorts of plans come to pass was by breaking them down into very small, manageable bits, and setting deadlines for each of them.

Becoming more comfortable with public speaking was also one of those nebulous goals of mine.  But I received an external deadline of sorts when a major industry conference invited me to hold two workshops this fall.  Getting ready for something so challenging meant evaluating what steps I needed to take and breaking them down into small steps with deadlines.  Attending Toastmasters was one of these steps.

Being a writer means that I’m easily distracted by bright shiny objects.  It means a daily fight to maintain focus and stay on task.  Deadlines, and the three ways I’ve taken to using them, have proven my best tool for doing so.

I believe every one of us has set and hit personal deadlines because we’re all here.  At some point, we said, “I want to be a better, more confident speaker.”  And then we set ourselves some sort of deadline for finding information, making online or phone contact, and showing up for a meeting.

Deadlines may have a bad rap, but they’re actually tools to help us succeed, focus, and grow.

Do you have any self-imposed deadlines?  What other ways do you use them?

 

To receive a free ebook, updates, and recipes, sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/kCy5j ,or by visiting her website. Her next book is Fall to Pieces, of the Southern Quilting mysteries, which releases on January 17th.

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