The Power of Deadlines

by kipress

The prize for procrastination in this world would, I know, be hotly contested. I think I’d have a shot at one of the runner-up spots, at least, though some students would likely give me a run for my money.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned deadline to end procrastination. I remember many the English lit research paper composed–research and notes already finished, but absolutely nothing written–starting at 9 pm the night before the due date. I had a tradition of writing it all night, handing it in in the morning, and then going to see a matinee instead of succumbing to sleep.

This may be one of the reasons I quit grad school. (On the other hand, I had a professor back then who claimed he wrote every conference paper on the plane on the way to the conference. The guy was a world-famous expert type.)

But what happens when there is no deadline? You have to make them, silly: sign up for writing courses, join a group, book a reading, anything that will force you to finish a certain something by a certain date, however small that something is. This was the primary reason I took creative writing classes in school: to give me a reason to get off my ass and write something.

I was set thinking about the power of deadlines following my students’ IPP (Independent Professional Project) Presentations last week. It’s a heck of a deadline–an entire course, with a final presentation attended by at least 150 people, rests on what you produce. I was keenly impressed (Can you be “keenly” impressed? Now you can!) by what most students were able to accomplish in one short year, while taking a full course load.

Okay, so some of the students who were writing novels or novellas didn’t exactly “finish” them. But unless you are a miracle worker, just lucky, or Joyce Carol Oates, actually writing a novel from nothing to publishable in one year, while going to school full time, is highly unlikely, deadline or no deadline. I applaud them anyway–while there is something to be said for hammering out a draft as fast as possible to get it out of the way, there is perhaps more to be said for being happy with what you are writing.

On a related note, I was alerted on Facebook this morning to the existence of Freedom, freeware that prevents you from going online for a period of time you specify. Okay, you can restart your computer if you really want to circumvent it. But I’m game to try it, since, as we all know, the internet is probably the greatest procrastination tool known to humankind.

Which reminds me, I have a class to prepare for.

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