Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: Set a deadline

March 10th, 2009 by


There are a lot of find things to motivate a writer to write.
The desire to craft a wonderful story…
The fantasy of writing a million dollar spec script…
The realization of putting on paper the singular story your life has led you to tell.

And then there’s possibly the best motivator of all…
Humiliation.
Or the threat thereof.

If you can orchestrate events so that the fear of being humiliated by not writing is greater than the fear of having people read what you do write, then you will be well on your way to getting your ass in chair and plowing ahead to FADE OUT.

So how to ensure this threat of humiliation?

Set a deadline.
Not just any deadline.
A public deadline!

Prepare an email in which you state your goal — “I am going to finish a draft of my long cherished screenplay ‘Leopard Lips’” – and most importantly, you select and include a due date. To up the stakes, you can add something like, “And if I don’t produce a draft of ‘Leopard Lips’ by [due date], I hereby proclaim you have the right to belittle my manhood / womanhood however you see fit by any electronic means including email, Twitter, Facebook, IM, SMS, BBM, or even archaic conveyances such as smoke signals or semaphores.”

Then take a deep breath, let out a guttural scream, and hit SEND.

There.
You’re screwed…
Unless, of course, you write the draft.

And that’s the point.
You will be publicly humiliated by all your friends and family…
You’ve opened that door wiiiiiiiiiiiiiidddddddddeeeeee open.

The echoes of their laughter (and the exponential growth of the laughter once they spread your email to their friends and family members) will literally haunt you, getting in the way of any form of enjoyment until you…
FINISH YOUR DAMN SCRIPT!

So set a deadline.
Publicly.
Put into motion the visceral threat of abject and utter humiliation.

That is sure to see you from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

This has been another installment of Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.

6 thoughts on “Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: Set a deadline

  1. Luzid says:

    I do this! But in a different way – I consult with Pilar Alessandra on my first drafts (she ROCKS), and set our meetings two months before I start a draft.

    This keeps me on a tight schedule, and forces me to keep working the process (which isn’t hard, I enjoy process immensely).

  2. Alissa says:

    I worked in the newspaper business for a few years and still do some freelance newspaper work. Even when I had a deadline that was a month out, it seemed to not get written until the very last minute. I was not alone in this practice. I guess it’s no different than being in college and writing that paper the night before it’s due. Still, I have found that pressure writing tends to produce some great stuff. So, set those deadlines that procrastinate until you have no choice but to buckle down and get it written.

  3. Désirée says:

    I used a public progress bar on my blog. That was perfect!

    It was like the whole word was watching. Then the progress bar must move forward.

    It’s like a form of deadline, but more animated on the way.

    Aren’t we stupid mammals sometimes :-)

  4. DS says:

    I set 3-4 month deadlines per script. In fact, I don’t have a problem procrastinating anymore. I love doing it, I need to do it.

  5. Michael V. Brown says:

    Wow. Some of the best advice I've read so far. I have a great community of people who would love to belittle me for my pipe-dreams. I better do this right now.

  6. Another type of deadline that has worked great for me is being a part of a writers group that meets on a regular schedule. I knew that I was going to have to have a certain amount of pages done every meeting. Plus, I got to have them workshopped. Instant gratification.

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