Saturday, December 18, 2010
Blogging and Life: Should You Write to a Deadline?
As usual, life intervenes in even our long-held plans. I had planned to do one more post about the year I’ve spent blogging on TheBookDesigner to follow up the Top Ten Blog Posts of My Rookie Blogging Year and Keywords posts I wrote last week.
Instead, let me ask you a question: Do you write to a deadline? It seems like I often come across stories by print journalists—or former print journalists—who talk about how their training as a reporter taught them how to write. The deadline and the absolute need to file your story on time gave them important skills.
For instance, they learned to get to the heart of the story quickly. To write a great lead-in. To leave time for at least one last check before sending the story on its way. And to get it in no matter what.
A Year of Daily Deadlines
Many people have asked me over the year “how I manage to do it” that is, keep blogging day after day. My experience has been a bit different, and I’ll tell you how.
The big commitment for me was right at the beginning. I knew that if I committed to write the blog every day for a year, that was exactly what I was going to do. Everything that happened during the year, at least as far as my intention is concerned, came from that first decision.
So it has gone over the year. The deadline I set for myself was midnight. That way, I could publish each blog article at 12:01 a.m. and have each post up for the entire 24-hour cycle of the day before the next post was due.
Every day I have had to come up with a topic, something of value to you, to write about. And then turn that into an article without too many typos, something readable by normal people.
Having this deadline hasn’t always been easy.
Have there been times I’ve sat, staring at the screen at 11:00 p.m., my mind a blank? Or spent an hour clicking through Google Alerts or Feedburner feeds looking for that elusive thread that will become an article?
Yes, maybe too many times.
Have I dreamt of the day I would be able to schedule posts a few days or a few weeks in advance, and avoid the daily deadline? Almost every day.
But Deadlines Are Good For You
On the other hand, I’ve been incredibly productive. After yesterday’s post, I’ve written and published exactly 400 articles in a little over 14 months.
The experience of producing all these articles has made me a better writer, and a more focused one. I see the point of an article or story much sooner now.
In the mornings I’ve been able to reel off 1,000-word articles in about 40 minutes quite regularly. The thread of the stories, the line that they will follow to get from a beginning to an end, appears earlier.
Maybe it’s like going to the gym for a year. You would expect your muscles to respond to working regularly, to grow stronger and more capable, wouldn’t you?
I’m saying you may be able to get that in your writing, too.
And I don’t think it matters much what your deadline is. You could be writing 100 words a day, or a page a week, or two blog posts a week, or whatever suits you.
No, the real punch here comes from this: Whatever your schedule, tell yourself that the deadline you’ve set is completely inflexible, and must be met at all costs.
That’s it. The secret to becoming a more brawny writer. Make a deadline, then write to it as if your life depended on it.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author, a book designer and blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.