Thoughts on Deadlines and Why I Can’t Meet Them

A personal accounting of one of the more complicated aspects of a self-publishing author’s life: deadlines.

Alright, here’s the deal.

I can’t meet my own deadlines.

“Oh, but because it’s your schedule you get to make the rules and you’re in charge!” (If my cats cared this is what they might say.)

No. I’m not in charge. Because the minute the second I think I can meet a deadline something happens and I can’t.

This time, for example, I wanted to self-publish a short story collection on Halloween this year. It was going to be full of creepy, speculative fiction and I was going to have an absolute fucking blast writing it.

I made the decision to do this back in August when neither Regina nor any of my faeries were being particularly talkative and I thought I needed a “fresh” project so that I would keep writing every day and still feel productive.

Can you guess what happened?

I didn’t write a damn thing. I only have 2 short stories. That is not acceptable. Because now I’m faced with two paths: 1) scramble like hell and write 4 new things now and maybe they won’t be good and maybe they won’t make sense but by G-O-D they’ll be there, some of my other responsibilities may fall to the wayside but I am determined. Or 2) scrap the deadline and let the stories happen when they happen.

I’ve tried to form thoughts about being a self-publishing person and keeping a schedule and so far, but it’s time to take a close look once again.

Back in December 2018 I published a novella called Dead Girl Moon. It was meant to be a front runner to Havoc’s Moon, which was supposed to be published in March or April of 2019. That didn’t happen. I rearranged my schedule and changed my deadlines. I wrote for April Camp Nanowrimo and July Camp Nanowrimo and the book still didn’t happen. Another other novellas happened but then it rebelled and split in two (magical literary mitosis y’all) and I ran out of brain power to edit them down and add plot filler to make them whole and not nonsensical (well…nonsense will still happen but you know what I mean).

And then I started school and my writing hit the brick wall of academia (not for the first time) and since no progress was being made I scrapped my schedule yet again. But I thought: surely I can write a short story a week still. Surely my brain can manage that much. If I have all of September and the first half of October to write one measly little short story a week I can still meet my deadline. 6 weeks=6 stories and I’ve surpassed my quota. I win!

Can you guess what happened?

I haven’t written a complete short story yet. I have 2 drafts of stories I worked on back in March and April that I didn’t finish then and haven’t finished now.

The goals are not being met.

More importantly, the writing isn’t happening.

And now I have to figure out why.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with.

1) I have to write something every day. 10 words. 100 words. A 3 word poem. 1000 words. Whatever. I have to write every day or else I go crazy.

This is different from putting your ass in the chair and turning out pages for your holy WORK IN PROGRESS every day.

This is about expression and practicing. Like meditation, do a little every day and you’ll feel better. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes, 3 minutes.

Because I wasn’t writing what I wanted to write I wasn’t writing at all. That is bad. That is harmful. That leads to insecurities like imposter syndrome and self-loathing.

So I need to write every day but I cannot compartmentalize myself and say, “Today I am going to write a poem.” Or, “Today I am going to catch up with Regina.”

When I get the urge to write or a little idea fragment pops into my head I need to stop what I’m doing and write it down even when I’m in class or talking to a friend or whatever. I need to pay attention to my inner writing voice and let the ideas flow.

If I go the rest of the year without writing Havoc’s Moon, I’ll be okay as long as I’m still writing.

2) Life shit gets in the way of writing. Family drama, Biology tests, Chemistry labs, whatever. All the things that are *gasp* more important than writing right now.

(Digression: It’s not that I want to make writing my “full-time” job or be a “professional” writer. I want writing to be THE MOST IMPORTANT in my life. I’ve had to come (by trial and error) to the realization that writing is not and never will be the most important thing in my life. It’s in the top 5 (…okay it’s #6 on the list…the cats are #5) but it’s not THE MOST important. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be dedicated or passionate about writing. There was a time when writing was the only thing that made me happy and I ate, breathed, and shat poetry. But then I changed my life, made my situation better and found things other than poetry that I could love. That’s when I thought proper time management would let me do the things I wanted to do. And when I couldn’t keep to a schedule I felt like I wasn’t dedicated enough. Especially when I was such a “strong” writer before. But those are incorrect thoughts because there’s no ONE right way to write. And people are allowed to change and evolve.)

So I need to not add writing to the list of things going “wrong.”

Writing has always been the healing factor, the savior. Not the stressor.

That means I need to get rid of deadlines completely. And schedules. And plans.

When I have a project finished, I will publish it. Beyond that I can’t plan anymore. I can’t predict when I will have time today to write let alone plan out Nanowrimo next month (which I still want to try even though I have Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year and studying for final exams).

So no schedule. No deadlines. No nothing beyond write something every day. Maybe after school or during the summer I can try to build a frame for my viscera but not right now. Right now I just need to ooze around on the table and try not to get dehydrated.

3) Grow as I writer.

But not get caught up in the world of the “side hustle” or the “authorpreneur.” That’s what got me in trouble in the first place. I would watch YouTube/AuthorTube videos of people who have fans and followers and newsletters and for some silly reason I thought, “Well, they’re successful. I need to be like them.”

No. I don’t need to be like them. Even though they’re really cool and shiny.

Writing is not my day job.

My day job was sticking people with needles. My future job will be sticking people with needles and then looking at what I pull out under a microscope. Right now my job is raking pine needles.

I will still eat if I don’t publish a book. They might not. They have to do the marketing and the newsletter writing and the promotions and all that stuff that makes my brain hurt.

I want to learn the marketing stuff because I find it interesting. I don’t want to spend hours on social media begging for people to read my books.

But when I say grow as a writer, I want to do things that make my writing better. Like with anything in academia, there’s this stigma/stereotype that once you “get” an MFA you’ve made it (and I’m going to talk a lot about all that later) or that you’ve learned all the things you possibly could about writing and you are now the best ever.

That’s not true. Some of my classmates’ writing sucked. Sometimes my writing sucks. I do my best not to show you the stuff that sucks but reading is SUBJECTIVE and you, the reader, can like or hate whatever you want. Some of my classmates who I think their writing sucks went on to get book deals. The chick who wrote 50 Shades of Grey is super rich now. Whatever.

Some of it is skill and artistry, some of it is personal preference, but the things that define what make writing “good” are not universal or quantifiable. I mean, spelling and grammar are kind of a necessity but beyond that it’s all up to the reader.

I’m going to stop getting off topic now.

What I want to make clear is: I’ve let myself get distracted by all the shiny things in the self-publishing world that are related to writing but are not writing. In my distracted state, coupled with all my other not-writing responsibilities, I’ve let my writing slip, and not just the word count. I’ve been writing shitty, unusable stuff. And that’s good because all that stuff needs to come out but I also want to get serious about writing again.

Just writing.

So I’m saying “fuck off” to everything else (except you, dear reader, you’re awesome) and only focusing on writing words. Showing up to the page and getting 10, 50, 500 words a day until I feel like I’m back on solid ground.

To anyone waiting for more of The Slaughter Chronicles: I love you and I’m sorry you have to wait longer.

*

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Let’s play “who am I”

Me: If I were a god or goddess who would I be?

Mr. J: (silence)

Me: Take your time.

Mr. J: Ok you know when Hercules fights all the centaurs because he opens a bottle of wine too early or whatever? The wine could only be opened at such and such time on such and such day? Something like that. Because the wine belonged to all the centaurs and it was special wine.

Me: …yeah…

Mr. J: You’re whoever gave Hercules’s friend that wine.

Me: I’m Bacchus? Why? Because I used to drink a lot? I barely drink anymore!

Mr. J: No. Because you’re neurotic as fuck and need things to happen in specific ways at specific times otherwise everything goes horribly wrong.

Note: I think Mr. J made up the part about the wine being reserved for a specific time and place and I’m not sure if Bacchus gave the wine to the centaurs or if they just got it from the local ABC store but it’s still funny.

Why I LOVE Traveling Songs

Traveling Songs by S.J. Tucker is one of my favorite music compilations to come out of 2016, second only to David Bowie’s last album.

An album is a guided presentation of a story. Even if the listener has no knowledge of the destination, the map has a line and the road follows the bard’s voice. We, the ones living outside the storyteller’s head, can wander down the path and explore the story.

Traveling Songs lets you jump the border and dive into the uncharted, wild terrain of SJ’s imagination. Traveling Songs gives us the opportunity to throw the map away and listen to a pure, undiluted year’s worth of SJ’s musical creations.

What can I say about Traveling Songs? 1st: IT’S AWESOME

the concept
the conception
the cause: to fund an amazingly awesome
singer/songwriter’s art and her new touring vehicle
are all awesome.

2nd: why is it awesome?

Here’s some backstory for you:

I first met SJ at a concert in Memphis, maybe 2009, maybe 2008. The city and I had both changed drastically since my last visit there in 2006 and I spent the whole day terrified of the unfamiliar streets and indulging myself with bad company.

Sanctuary is the feeling you get when you step into a venue where SJ is set to play. When the place permeates your entire existence, even if it’s only for an hour or two, and that place is exactly where you need to be to make everything right with your life. The excellent musical quality and artistry of SJ’s performances combined with the gesture of storytelling, and the stories themselves, give listeners exactly what they need to re-discover their inner strength and overcome all obstacles. That night I clapped so hard I bent my silver rings out of shape and even though my life was not ideal, SJ inspired me to keep going and exist as my best self in the face of adversity.

from SJ’s album Solace and Sorrow, Sorrow’s Song:

Tell me a tale so beautiful that the stars will strain to hear
The song you fear to end is just beginning
so sing me a city of wishes and fire
sing me a traveling song
I will give you words of wonder
and a feather cloak to keep you warm!

When SJ made this post about her new project, a collection of songs that she wrote between February 2015 and 2016 for a Song-a-Week Challenge (this includes songs in a wide variety of musical genres and subjects) 2 of the songs from the Song-a-Week Challenge are available for listening on SJ’s Soundcloud. and asked for donations for either an 11 song collection, a 22 song collection, or the whole package of 52 songs, one for each week, you can bet I hitched my star to that wagon. The power of music and the power that storytellers like SJ possess turns the ordinary drudgery of our day to day lives into magic and wonder. Traveling Songs is a comprehensive and fantastic representation of SJ’s musical and creative talent. In her own words, the songs are “all works in progress. Some of them are iPhone recordings that I cleaned up in my mixing software just a little bit. But I’m proud to be able to share them with you.”

One of the amazing things about SJ is that not only does she make great art, she also travels around the world playing music for her friends and sustains herself with her art. SJ dares to live her dreams and she’s thriving because she has the strength and courage to, in all honesty, do what needs to be done and tell the stories.

I don’t know about you but I would love to quit my day job and write/perform poetry all day but I have over $100,000 in student loans. As much as I would love to live my dream of existing as a hermit on top of a mountain, or driving all over the country in an RV and just enough money to get by, I can’t. My past life choices won’t let me.

BUT here’s the thing: not only does SJ heal all the broken things with her songs and give a voice to the voiceless, SJ doesn’t just embody the fairy tale life many of us artists want/yearn to live, she gives people like me the courage/motivation/support to strive for my dream anyway, no matter what obstacles I put there in my past, no matter how many people (sometimes including myself) say that I can’t do whatever it is that I want to do. When I listen to Traveling Songs I remember the part of myself that won’t let anyone tell her no, the part of myself that won’t put up with boundaries or labels and isn’t afraid to exist as herself and live in the spirit of the creative.

SJ’s Traveling Songs are the promised words of wonder and the warmth that the road gives to all hopeful travelers.

Thank you Sooj!!!

Get your copy HERE today!