How To Keep Deadlines - Musings From a Serial Procrastinator

When discussing the importance of deadlines, it is almost compulsory to quote Douglas Adams to justify not meeting them, so I won’t. Because I know it isn’t funny or clever to miss them. 

But I do miss them. 


I don’t know what it is about deadlines, but they’ve always felt like a starting point rather than a place to end up. Come deadline day I must tidy up, finish everything else in the world that could possibly need to be done, and then, once I have a clear work space and a nice clean sheet of paper, sure enough, I can begin.

Except, I can’t pretend to have even that level of respect for deadlines. As they pass, I experience a moment of silence. I think, ‘just this once, did I get away with it without anybody chastising me? Can I put it off to the weekend, or to a couple of nights next week?’ Before I know it, two weeks have gone by and a chasing email finally comes in asking whether I’ve had the chance to do anything. All very polite. All enough to prick my conscience. 

So, who am I to offer a blogpost on keeping deadlines?

Well, as we Exeter Writers take turns on sharing tip and tricks in our writing experience, I must confess at this stage to being a hobbyist. I love writing, but on a social level. If I write a Facebook post half a dozen people will hit the laughing emoticon for: 'I’m pretty chuffed with my craft'. The novel is a work in progress, has been for many years, and isn’t good enough for anyone else to see just yet.

The short stories and pieces I write about cult TV enjoy a small circulation in charity fanthologies that I adore, but real people wouldn’t find them unless they looked really, really hard for them. (And yes, dear editor, the post I’ve promised you about the joys of writing for charity fanthologies is in the works, honest.)

But I can be something of a liability, because, writing isn’t my job, and at the moment, I don’t have aspirations that way. Like everyone else, I find things to pull at my time; that get in the way. Things I’d rather do instead.

Listen to me. The excuses are old and well-trodden!

And most shameful of all, I know every time I miss a deadline I let someone down.

Quite honestly, this post could simply read 'Every time you miss a deadline you let someone down' one hundred times over and my point would be made more concisely. 

Maybe I would learn from that punishment too...

My time is no more important than yours. So if I commit to doing something for you, you should not have to chase me.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a plan to write 500 words tonight that I’ve made for myself, or a request for a blog post of 1,000 words to be submitted in three weeks time, or a short story for an editor who could be paying me. It’s a question of respect, isn’t it?

Do I want the reputation as someone who cannot be trusted to meet a deadline? 

One day, I want the novel finished, and 500 words each night will get me there. I let myself down if I don’t.

All the other Exeter Writers submit clear and sensible blog posts on time. I let the group down if I don’t.

I’ve committed to write this short story and the deadline is a month away. I let the editor down, and the other contributors, if I don’t.

And so, the message of this blog post is a simple one, because you and I, we do not have to be the same. In fact, it’s not too late for me to change either. 

Good grief, a moment of epiphany. If I am the only person moved to change by this post, at least it's served a purpose.

I want a reputation for getting things done on time. I want to be ‘safe hands’ for writing projects. I want to be trusted. I want to meet a professional standard in how I conduct my life as a writer.

The funny thing is, for all of my deadlines that flew by, I never once took pleasure from the sound of the whoosh. I never heard a whoosh at all.

Respect your deadlines. Do what you say you are going to do. And most importantly, do it on time. 

This blog post was submitted late.


Jolyon Drake is a master of deadline dodging. With his skills in this area he has successfully avoided blog posts, finishing his novel and delaying publication of anthologies.  As a self-confessed hobbyist, Jolyon writes for the sheer joy of it, and perhaps is amongst the happiest of writers for it. If you want to read some of his works you can ask him about them on Facebook and Twitter.