No matter what kind of writing you’re doing, everything has a deadline at some point. We’re even encouraged to stamp deadlines onto our goals to make sure we actually follow through with them.
This isn’t all bad. Deadlines teach discipline, help you manage your procrastination, and force you to remain productive even when you “aren’t feeling motivated.” I encourage all actively aspiring writers, especially those newer to writing, to set their own deadlines as a practice tool for writing in the real world.
But sometimes, having a deadline when you don’t need one isn’t the best decision for you. Not all the time.
Because sometimes, too many deadlines can affect your work. Deadlines can become a source of unnecessary stress. While most deadlines are inevitable, not every single project needs one.
In an industry where deadlines are the structural framework holding everything together, always have one writing project on your plate that doesn’t have any.
I thoroughly enjoy the 10 to 15 minutes per day I get to spend working on my novel. I get very little done, it’s not high on my priority list, but it’s something I get to work on without any pressure to work or perform. If something comes up and I can’t work on it one day, sirens don’t start wailing in the back of my mind. I can just say, “OK, no problem.”
As much as I believe all writers should challenge themselves to do better, you can’t try to outperform yourself 24/7. It’s not good for your creativity, it’s not good for your mental or physical health. There’s a time stamp on every project in my Asana board right now except one. And it just makes me feel a little bit more in control of my time.
Sometimes, projects take a long time. You get stuck, you’re distracted by other things — but that’s not as bad as we’ve come to believe. Most of us are too caught up in the lie that if you’re not constantly working, you’re going to fail. We’ve forgotten how to slow down and actually enjoy the work we’re doing. More doesn’t always equal better. Now isn’t always better than tomorrow.
As a writer, you’re going to spend a lot of time correcting your urges to procrastinate, to rely on motivation, and to abandon ship when things get boring. And you should. But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed one thing to tackle at your own pace, when you feel like it, without any guilt.
Writing as a profession, whether you’re already there or working toward it, is stressful enough. Take a deep breath. Remember that sometimes, writing without time constraints is just the kind of freedom you need to create something beautiful.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.