During graduate school I had a strict monthly deadline to get work turned in to my advisor. The only break I took was the one day it took for her to get back to me with feedback, and the two or so weeks between the last deadline of the semester and the new semester. I carved out time whenever I could, as I've blogged about before. But with life as busy as it is, I don't write nearly as often as I'd like. As I work on two novels while revising another, I realize that deadlines got me moving. Knowing I had to get done by a certain date got me in front of the keyboard. I thought that having an agent would be the push I needed to keep that momentum. Unfortunately, that's not how it's been. While I know that I owe her work, it's not the same when I know she is patient and busy with her other clients.
I have learned that it has to come from within. Maybe one day when I'm with a publisher I might have the kinds of deadlines that keep my fingers flying across keys, but as I wait for that I have to get batter at imposing deadlines for my writing. I don't know how best to do that. Not sure if I should write the deadline all over the house; set it as a task on my Outlook; create reminders on my phone, or all of the above. But, I have to do something because letting other things get in the way of writing is driving me crazy. Part of it is that it's a busy time, but then again, I stay busy, so that's a year-round excuse.
The more I think about it, the more I think that my barriers are emotional. I am so close to the characters I've created that I don't want to give myself a deadline to be done with them. I want to keep developing them. I keep recalling a lecture I heard at school that said that while as the author we would love to sit in a coffee shop for hours and listen to our characters talk to each other, develop their relationships, and get to know them, our readers aren't satisfied with that. They want something to happen, which is completely understandable. As a reader, I want that, too. But as a writer, I want to keep my characters close and so knowing that I'm working towards the end of the story, their story, makes me sad. I don't want to lose them even though more characters will come. At least, I hope they will. It's the never-ending fear of many writers - myself included, that the story we are working on, the characters we are creating are the last ones we will ever write - our last great idea. That insecurity becomes a self-imposed obstacle, leads me to procrastinate, to play with my characters in my head, avoiding getting my ideas on the page.
That said, I have to do better. I owe it to my characters, myself and my desire to be a writer. Even if no one ever wants to read my writing, I can't keep it in my head forever, I have to be brave and determined enough to set a deadline and finish their story.