The Value of Habits, and the Need for Deadlines

I’m late getting this blog post out today, and it’s wholly because I fell out of the habit of blogging, when I was spending most of my weekends working on our flip house with my husband. Back when I was blogging regularly before, getting the blog done was typically one of the first things I did once I got going on Sunday (although, that sometimes takes me a while). But now?

I had it on my To-Do list, which is the first step. But instead of getting the blog written, I goofed off, cleaned the fish tank (which badly needed doing), did laundry, washed the sheets and put them back on the bed, and puttered around in between. So now it’s after 9 PM, and just now getting to the blog.

Fiction writing is pretty much the same way. Yes, I have adrenal fatigue and chronic migraines, but the latter aren’t usually the debilitating kind, and I can’t help but feel those things are more excuses than reasons. So I have all good intentions of getting to the writing, even to the extent of putting it on my to-do list, but I somehow never seem to get to it.

Except this week, I finally did.

Over the past few months, I’ve been glomming on another financial independence blog called Our Next Life. (btw, highly recommended, as it’s more about the touchy-feeling side of planning for retirement, rather than about numbers, all wrapped up in some wonderful life-musings, and the writing is really good.) The author used to work a very fast-paced, high stress job, and in a post I read last week, wondered what life would be like without deadlines in early retirement. Seriously, that post is well worth a read, especially her thoughts on procrastination, but to sum up, she concluded that without deadlines, she and her husband might not get around to all the travel, service, and outdoorsy adventures they have planned.

I realized that was my problem too. As a writer whose publisher does not impose deadlines (or contract for unfinished work), I was having trouble staying motivated. Worse, I was having this same trouble in my day job.

My dog Isis has several deadlines a day, for taking her beauty naps.

Not that I wasn’t doing anything there, but I just wasn’t feeling the motivation, which led to me not getting as much done as I should have been for the past several months–because there’s no deadline attached. I’m the only programmer working on this project, and while I did give my supervisor a rough idea of when it would be done, there’s no one holding my hands to the keyboard to keep things moving week to week.

So I put together a schedule, breaking my work project down into smaller chunks, and setting a deadline for each one. I was debating on whether or not to send it to my supervisor–after all, it’s not like I expect her to babysit me–when she emailed me and asked for that very thing! So while she has tons of other stuff going on and I don’t expect much follow up, just knowing she has the schedule is giving me a feeling of enough urgency to focus better. And as a result, I’m feeling more engaged with my work.

What I’ve Been Reading: I have a lot to catch up on here–if I even try. I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction, in addition to blogs outside of the fiction writing realm. But of course, I’m still enjoying fiction. Recently, I read Stone Cold Heart, the final (so far) installment of what’s become one of my favorite series, the Mythos Legacy by Jami Gold. One reason I love this paranormal romance series is that these books and characters aren’t just the same-ol, same-ol. In Stone Cold, the hero is a gargoyle warrior in a Rip Van Winkle situation, and the heroine is an Army vet dealing with PTSD. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a different kind of paranormal romance. While the three prior books were also wonderful, it’s not necessary to read these in order. More gargoyle books are planned in a spinoff series, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: For the writing, I jumped back on the ROW80 train last week. While it isn’t the same as a deadline, having someone to be accountable to is a great motivator for me. I hate posting on my blog that I met none of my goals (even though everyone is always kind and supportive), so that helps me get things done.

So am I getting tons done now? Nope. But I did meet my writing goal for this week, which was to finish the Week Two lessons of Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop. Babysteps!

For next week, we’ll stick with babysteps for now, and plan on getting Week Three done of the workshop.

What about you? Do you need deadlines, or at least some sort of accountability, to get stuff done? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be (writing or otherwise)? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

6 Responses to \

  1. Boy howdy, don’t I know that habits are easy to break and not so easy to restore. I’m glad you’re finding ways to restore your habits of blogging and writing. But, don’t be too hard on yourself. All that physical work of restoring a house is exhausting without any medical complications. My medical issues are well controlled, thank goodness, but if I overdo it on the physical side of getting things done–the writing suffers.

    As for me, I’m struggling to write a short story(it’s been a long time and those skills are rusty). I’m blogging more regularly and I’m finishing up a challenge meant to grow my blog readers. Not sure that’s working, but I’m learning new skills. I’m also continuing to learn more about trademarks, self-publishing, and marketing one’s books. I’ve got a lot more to do before my debut book comes out at the end of next month, but I’m excited so that keeps me motivated.

  2. I think baby steps are good. When you’ve been away from something for a length of time, it’s sometimes hard to just jump right back in. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. I was supposed to get back to my unfinished novel this week but now I’ve come down with some kind of cold/flu bug and it’s wiped me out. I had to get an antibiotic shot since my immune system is still fragile. I’m hoping by the end of the week I’ll be back at it.

    Take care of yourself and keep on making those deadlines. They do serve a purpose.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  3. Lynette, writing short is such a different skill than a novel, isn’t it? It’s tough to build blog traffic. But learning is always good! Good luck with the upcoming release!

    Patricia, such a bummer to get a yucky summer cold, especially after all you’ve been through! Hope you feel better soon, so you can get back to your WIP!

  4. Another useful post, Jennette. It’s very helpful, partly just to know other people slack off their writing projects even though they are productive in other areas of their lives. February through May was n overwhelmingly must period for me, and after it was over it took a full month to “right my ship.” That is, I hadn’t had time to write for months, then I did have time, but I didn’t write. I was simply too exhausted and spent, body and soul.

    Now I’m feeling very productive because I tell myself what I want to have finished by the end of the day. (A deadline.) It feels SO GOOD!

    Don’t stress about being behind in blogging. We’ll all be here ready to read when you get to it!