I’ve been feeling stressed but also blessed these last few days—and feeling more like a ‘real’ writer than I have in a while. I’ve been writing for, literally, hours each day, and there’s nothing like actually writing and producing work that you know some people are going to read (or that you’re going to read out loud, as I am on February 11th) to make you feel like your writing really matters.
I’ve also been logging a lot of hours writing grant proposals and reports for Generations Ahead, a cutting-edge organization working to make sure that the new genetic technologies are being used in an ethical and socially just way. I feel honored to write for them, as they’re doing important work that no one else really does, and it’s fascinating (and sometimes scary) stuff.
I’ve also been working to meet two important deadlines for my creative writing: an application to the Macondo Workshop, a program started by Sandra Cisneros. It’s a pretty competitive program, only eight people get in every year, but it sounds right up my alley. I submitted my application on Wednesday—wish me luck!
The other deadline I’ve been working on (and need to meet this weekend) is for a writing residency at Blue Mountain Center in the Adirondacks. I’ve been there once before and it’s a beautiful place—and I’ve realized that I need large blocks of uninterrupted time to really get deep into my writing.
All these deadlines, while stressful if I let them get to me, have also motivated me to get all this writing done. I’ve been editing like crazy, combing through my work with a fine-tooth comb until I feel like I’m getting cross-eyed, and getting feedback from some of my writer friends, which has only made my writing stronger. My experience as a fundraiser with all those grant deadlines has helped me recognize that these deadlines can really be lifelines—helping me get off my butt and away from the Internet and TV, and helping me get to writing.
So if you need to figure out how to give yourself more time to write, give yourself some deadlines. Better yet, to make sure you won’t just keep changing the deadlines to accommodate the rest of your life—which I often do when I set my own deadlines—commit to meeting a deadline for a writing contest, a fellowship program, workshop, or a writing group. This means making your intention to write public, and committing to someone other than yourself to give your writing to them to read. This is a good thing, although it can be scary at first.
This is how deadlines can really be lifelines—because they give life to our writerly intentions, cut through procrastination, force us to focus, and help us realize our own goals. And then, when you’re done with all your deadlines (as I will be by next Tuesday), you can kick back and take a little vacation from writing—and watch all the DVDs or read all the trashy novels you want—until the next deadline comes along.