Writing Pressure: Why sometimes deadlines are good

As an independent author, deadlines are rather arbitrary, and they tend to depend on no one but myself. Once a book is finished, I’ll give myself a release date and then try to fit all the lead-up promotional tasks before that date. I have a general rule that I’ll release (at least) one new book a year. That’s a pretty fluid deadline. What I don’t have with my novel writing is a hard and fast deadline that I must reach or else.

Writing without deadlines is not always good, that’s why I like the fact that my drama-writing has very specific deadlines that must be met.

Why are deadlines important? When others are watching and waiting for you, you want to do well and you may just rise to the occasion.

Recently I was watching this fascinating documentary on luck and chance. In one experiment they did, a researcher gave some casual golfers a task of hitting 10 putts. One group was given a random golf putter. The other was given a golf putter that was used by a famous golfer to win one of the major opens. The researches found that the ones who used the putter of the famous golfer actually performed 11% better than the other group. The question is why? One explanation is about pressure. If someone has no pressure to perform a task, one tends not to do so great at it. If one has too much pressure, one tends to not do too great at it. The researcher explained that just the right amount of pressure in any given situation gives one the “sweet spot” the heightened ability to perform without being too overwhelmed. The famous putter was able to give the one group a little more confidence so they could perform better having just the right amount of pressure.

Okay, what does this have to do with writing? It has nothing to do with the putter, but it does have something to do with pressure. The pressure to perform. I have long thought that pressure brings out the best in people. Being able to rise to the challenge is something that has been to me when I write. That is why I sometimes like having writing deadlines. Deadlines get me focused. It puts my eye on the prize, like I’m getting ready to putt. I know I can sink the putt because I’ve done it before. The pressure excites me. Plus, I am being held accountable to others who know that I have a deadline. I want to please them. I’ll work harder to do so.

Here’s my latest challenge. I’m writing a Christmas program for my drama group. We start rehearsals August 10. In need 10 dramatic sketches wrapped around a certain theme by then. I currently have 5 of them finished with a head start on two others. So I have two and half weeks to write five more sketches, all the while crafting them all around each other in a cohesive way.

The pressure if finally on. Will I be able to rise to the challenge? Will my writing actually be better because of the added pressure of the August 10 deadline?

I will let you know.

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