Natalie Kleinman kicks off this month’s ‘deadlines’ theme by looking at the way she works and comparing herself with her daughters.
Interesting things, deadlines. You either love ‘em or you hate ’em. Or so I thought. I have two daughters. Both are bright intelligent young women who each handle their challenging and difficult careers well. But I remember when they were at school and university. One was meticulous in her preparation, not happy unless she’d covered all the ground she could. The other left things – at least it seemed so to me at the time – to the very last minute. However, it transpired that she did some of her best work under pressure. I’ve believed for many years that I favoured the approach of the former. However, it seems I may have been wrong.
I’m quite good at setting my own deadlines, and sticking to them. I don’t know if I’m my own worst enemy or best friend but if I say I’ll do something I usually stick to it. That said I am just as good at displacement therapy as the next person. It’s so easy to switch to Scrabble on line or some form of solitaire – just for a few minutes to relieve the pressure you understand. I’ve wasted hours this way and from what I hear I’m not alone. Coffee. That’s another one.
I am a member of a closed Facebook group of jobbing writers and it has become the practice to set a word target for the month. This is not arbitrary. Each sets their own – whether realistic or not so – aims for the given time period. I’ve found this to be a wonderful catalyst, feeling I am letting the group down if I don’t achieve my goal. Of course the only person who would be let down is me. That said, I am convinced I produce a far higher word count, having picked up the gauntlet, than if I’d just ambled on in my own sweet time.
In the happy position of having had two books published this summer, I am in the process of writing my next novel. I am delighted that as of a few weeks ago I have a literary agent who will be representing me and pushing my work. However, I have not been given a deadline for completion of the next novel (just over 60k as I write this mid-September) and in a way I find this disconcerting. My first published novel was my entry for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writer’s Scheme. As such, I did have a deadline. Euphoria and an innate enthusiasm drove me to finish the second one. But now? I’m beginning to realise that I have more of one daughter than the other, and not the one I thought, at least as far as my writing is concerned. I truly believe that I produce better work under pressure than when given free rein to do as I like. Therefore I have set my own deadline, as necessary for me to honour as if it had been set by someone else. So forgive me please if I cut this piece short – I have a novel to finish.