Writer Life & Lessons

Motivation: When It’s All On You

may13 009At work, I have deadlines, specific outcomes to achieve and timescales to follow.

When writing a novel, this isn’t often the case. So we writers need to set ourselves deadlines instead.

But if you’re anything like me, a self-set deadline doesn’t really work.

It’s not like I NEED to get it done by then.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t set them at all. It just means you need to be a bit crafty…


In my last post, I talked about how I immerse myself in the world, skin and experience of “being a writer”. Although I’ve been novelling since 2009, this is only a shift since March of this year.

Up to that point I “wrote novels in my spare time”.

Technically, I still “write novels in my spare time”, because I have a 9-5 job in a separate field, I have friends and family I visit and have a flat to clean and tidy.

But I’ve set myself a deadline, and given this work a title.

Novel-writing is my second career.


Much like my colleague finishes work at 5pm, then goes to her cleaning job 6 – 8 four evenings a week. Just as I used to come home from university or my summer job and write. So many people work two jobs in order to make ends meet or to keep up their skills or learn new ones.

I refer to writing as a “second career”. It’s my other job.

Just labelling it that in my head was enough for me to really shift how I saw/thought of my writing. Following that up with some additional deadlines, a website I paid money for and business cards ready to hand out… and suddenly I was beginning the work much more quickly.

Half the battle, for me, is the beginning. Once I’m “in” a story, I’m in. It’s just tricky to get started and stay with the characters long enough for them to keep me there.


So. Aspect one is sorted. I am a “writer” and I’m doing some of the writing.

Now we meet aspect two: Deadlines.

I said earlier in this post that I don’t have the discipline to stick to them. But I still set them.

Thinking of it as specifically a “work deadline” helped; definitely.

But it wasn’t enough.

So I made other people set me deadlines. Even without them knowing it.

– Can’t really bring yourself to begin editing that blog post? Agree to write a guest post on someone else’s blog.  [I interviewed S. M. Boyce, and have now told her when the posts will be up (psst… only seven days to go!)]

– Not really feeling up to that line edit? Arrange for a beta-reader to take it off you by X date. Give yourself enough time (I overestimate – so if it will take around a month, I use the date of six-weeks-time, just in case.)

And if there’s nothing that needs another person, tell everyone you know. My family all know I’m going to begin submitting query letters to agents as of January 2014. I hope to have the final draft of Planes Shifter done by the end of October (in time for WFC2013), but that gives me the extra few weeks to polish, and to research which agents I want to query most before I get the “how is that going?” questions.

And to keep people reminding me, I’ve asked for the Writer’s and Artists Yearbook for my birthday. I’ve also asked for a writing magazine subscription, some funds towards hiring an editor and generally included lots of things about my writing career. This helps the people around me to talk about it as a career instead of a hobby, which then means I remember it’s a real job – and get a boost of that feeling I was talking about earlier. Suddenly, it matters again. And it’s not “easily left until later”, because it’s my CAREER, you guys!

Even if it’s still the same you who sat down in 2009, at the same laptop, spending less time now than you did when you wrote a really rubbish novel for NaNoWriMo

Careers need work and are full of value. And deadlines are embarrassing to not meet, while forcing you to do amazing things.

Merely changing the wording of something can change how you and the world treat it.
So treat it as you believe it should be: as though it matters.

(And convince the rest of the world while you’re at it.)

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