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I've written stories ever since I could write, but somewhere along the way I seem to have lost the joy and natural desire to write for me. Churning out stories every other week for my degree course, and forcing non-existent brilliance out of myself has drained my natural spirit. So, I have created myself a blog in an attempt to find a way back to what made me fall in love with writing in the first place. Only you and I will discover if I fail or succeed...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

In Which I Rush a Deadline

I’ve heard that deadlines are so called because the consequence of not meeting one meant death. It’s probably a false myth, but still a pertinent analogy.[1] Faced with impending doom what would you do? Fight and use every resource to prevent it? Well done; I applaud you. You are probably one of those types that have finished the assignment before it is set. Many of us do this ourselves; fear of failure usually does it for me.[2]

The other reaction is something you might call a state of inactivity or stalling. I like to call it ‘deer-stuck-in-the-headlights-syndrome’, or ‘hedgehogging’.[3] You probably know it; a deadline is looming, you want to avoid it so you pretend it doesn’t exist, then you open your diary to enter something fun and there it is; it pops out and points a gun at you and you’re paralyzed.[4] You have to think back and figure out how this happened: you were doing other work, then it was your mum’s birthday, and of course you had that lunch date and the party you’d booked months ago. You thought you had plenty of time, but each delay ate some of that time away.

I sympathise.[5] The exact thing happened to me last week. I was having fun deciding what to buy the boyfriend for his birthday when out of my diary jumped a sniper; one week until I hand in 5,000 words for review! 5,000 words? It normally takes me twelve weeks to write that much![6] I hadn’t done any research and no words had been written. Out came the plan of action: research for three days, write for three days, revise for one. And it was time for a lesson in cramming.

I had a few rules and I stuck to them:
1.       Do not work at home: it is full of food and TV and bed.[7] Libraries have far stronger work-inducing vibes
2.       Stick to the schedule: if you’re going to read a certain textbook on Wednesday, do it on Wednesday. Changing your mind and looking for new sources wastes precious time
3.       Bring lunch, or eat on the go. Some universities have areas within the library where you can work and eat (saves money too)
4.       Have a break. I know this may seem to contradict rule 3, but moving around stops you getting bored and losing attention. Plus, ordering and drinking a coffee takes a lot less time than a sit-down meal
5.       Don’t check the word count. I know this sounds strange, but it will only stress you out if you check it every five words.[8] Restrict yourself to once an hour, or twice a day if you can manage it

I followed my rules, more or less, and achieved, if not greatness, mediocrity of acceptable draft levels. I even surprised myself by writing 2,101 words on the last day even after resigning myself to submitting a few hundred less than required. I ended up with 5,426 words. The beginning is always tough, but persevere and you could be pleasantly surprised.

Until next time. Ttfn xx

[1] Feel free to find out.
[2] I will admit I do this often; I am one of those people. Sneer if you will, but this blog is not about unhindered success. What interest is victory if there is no struggle?
[3] I just made this word up, but it is fun to say: ‘hedgehogging’. Try it.
[4] Normally accompanied by some dialogue like this: “Holy cow*! It’s a week until my assignment/presentation/wedding is due and I’ve done nothing!” and then you hide under the covers and hope the deadline erases itself from your diary. *curses removed for thinner skinned readers
[5] And hope you sympathise with me too. Family events are so time consuming.
[6] There are 12 teaching weeks each semester at Kingston.
[7] All of which can be multitasked: watch TV whilst lying in bed scoffing a tub of Oreos.
[8] It’s really, really difficult too; believe me.

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