Monday, April 11, 2005

Need Inspiration? Get A Deadline

Over the last few days, my desk has been loaded with books. I’ve cleared off everything else on my desk (mostly) and have five different Bibles open to the same passage of Scripture.  Actually I’ve been using more than five with two more over my shoulder on a small table. It’s been a remarkable experience for me and I’m enjoying the writing project.

I’m part of a team who are writing some material for a new Bible project targeted for men. I’ve got some specific sections to write and turn into my editor.  I’ve been wondering at times how I can create all of this material. Then I return to the philosophy that I mentioned a few days ago—I’m doing what I can do. I’ll admit I’ve had to pour on the writing the last few days to meet the deadline for this particular project.

I did not procrastinate—a common practice among writers. They sit around and wait until they are near the deadline then get an adrenaline rush which pushes the project to completion.  While at times in the past, I have operated in this mode, it’s not the case with this particular project. It has been on the fast track from the beginning.

I will confess there is some drive that happens from a deadline. Whether you self-impose that deadline on your schedule or an editor imposes the deadline, it’s good for inspiration. There isn’t time to casually answer email, surf the Internet for news or any of a number of other worthwhile distractions. There is only time to get the material written and out the door for the deadline.

Magazine work is excellent in the deadline area. The deadlines are generally short and they push you to use your time efficiently, write tightly and meet the editor’s needs for excellent materials. In general, books involve longer deadlines. You can’t simply crank out 70,000 words over a few days. Well, you can but it would be a challenge for these words to be coherent and have any excellence. I’ve written a few of those types of books over the years—so I know first hand. Book writing is much more of a plodding type of approach to complete the task. Writers select a certain amount of words or pages to complete each day to meet their deadline. This type of system works well in fiction or nonfiction.

Over the last few days, I’m grateful for the time in the Scriptures. I’m going to return to it in a few minutes.  I want to tell one more story about perfect timing that happened over the last few days. My wife and I were in Colorado Springs on Friday and Saturday for some family business. It was a busy but good trip (no time for writing). The weather men were talking about a change in the weather—typical springtime in the Rocky Mountains. It was 65 degrees on Saturday afternoon when we left. That evening, the temperature dramatically dropped and some places in Colorado Springs received almost two feet of snow. I’m delighted to have escaped that experience since last August when we moved to Arizona.

During the next few days, I’m going to be hitting the keyboard for this deadline. Then I jump on an airplane and head for New York City and the American Society of Journalists and Authors meetings. I’m anticipating some excellent learning experiences.  I’m moderating a panel on collaboration and ghost writing next Saturday at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Then next Sunday I head to Asheville, NC and the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I’m looking forward to teaching a number of hours and meeting individually with writers. I’ll have my laptop on the road. As I can I anticipate trying to tell you more about the Writing Life. But some times there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

3 Comment:

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Chris Left a note...

Amen Terry!

I know the 50,000-word/30-day deadline of National Novel Writing Month last November made all the difference between failed manuscript attempt #4 and a completed first draft (now in revision).

Having a target, or at least a clearly-defined goal, makes all the difference in maintaining focus and following through on things.

Travel safe.


At 8:11 AM, Blogger Bucktowndusty Left a note...

I wholeheartedly agree, Mr. Whalen. Not until I was invited to write weekly articles for a radio personality (to compliment his website) did I really start to get the inspiration to write regularly, meet deadlines, and experience all the emotions and nuances involved.

Outside of that, I’ve started to do something pretty neat that seems to motivate me to write and write better. I flip the television channel to the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel. Certain specials have excellent writing to compliment the visuals, so while the programs runs, I LISTEN TO THE TELEVISION, and follow the narrator’s sentence structure, imagine where punctuation would go, and absorb the style. It’s quite an experience. Now I can’t WATCH television the way I used to anymore – the writer in me won’t take a breather.


At 1:58 AM, Blogger Shirazi Left a note...

Terry Whalin, yes I think I can lear a lot from your journey. I came here via blog of the day and am stuck.


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