Blog by Toby Welch

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The Challenge of Self-Imposed Deadlines

I struggle with self-imposed deadlines. When I'm working on an article for a magazine editor who has given me a deadline, meeting the deadline is never a problem. In my mind it is carved in stone and it is non-negotiable that I meet or beat the deadline.

But when I set deadlines for myself, I know they're not rigid so I often have trouble sticking to them. This obviously affects my writing goals and my ability to meet those goals. It is frustrating as I want to hold my own deadlines to the same standard as I hold deadlines that are set for me by others.

Hopefully you have figured out a way to get yourself to meet your own deadlines. Finding the motivator that works for you is a vital step in the right direction.

(Despite mentioning above that deadlines set by editors a carved in stone in my mind and are not flexible, I did miss one deadline a few years ago. I'd been so ill with the flu that I felt like I was truly going to die. You know those illnesses, the ones where you have moments where you would prefer to be dead than continue to live with the pain. Anyway, I was convinced that I would be getting better soon and would be able to get the article done that had the rapidly-approaching deadline. When deadline day arrived, I was still spending more time with my head in a bucket than on a pillow. It was too late at that point to approach the editor with my pathetic excuses for not reaching out to her sooner regarding not being able to get the article done in time.

I went online and found a few pages of what looked like garbled code. I knew the editor wasn't very tech savvy so it would look to her like the words were chewed up by a garbage disposal and spit back out onto the page. I cut and pasted the mess onto a Word document and sent it to her as an attachment, claiming it was my article. I felt horrible for the lie even as I was doing it. I then hunkered in and got to work even though my brain barely functioned.

Luckily for me, two days passed before the editor emailed back. She said something must have gone badly in transition and the attachment wasn't legible. I polished off the article I had worked like a mad woman to string together and sent it to her along with my apologies for the technical glitch.

I handled that whole situation horribly. I should have approached the editor long before deadline day when I knew I wouldn't be able to get the words to her. I should have given her the option of assigning the piece to someone else or extending my deadline. That was her call to make, not my lie to carry out.

I hope in your writing career you respect the sanctity of deadlines that other people set for your writing projects. Consider them non-negotiable in your mind so you'll meet them.)