Friday, October 3, 2014

Craig Staufenberg on Not Liking Tight Deadlines @YouMakeArtDumb #AmWriting #WriteTip #MG

How to Meet Deadlines and Remain Sane

The simplest strategy is to not set deadlines. This is very easy when you’re writing the book for yourself and plan on self-publishing. It’s hard to let a deadline drive you crazy when it’s not there in the first place. Though then you may run into the creeping dread and anxiety that comes from not having a clear idea of when the project will be done. Or even if the project will be done. It’s easiest to not set deadlines when you’re sure that you’re going to finish the thing—which you can only be sure about if you have experience finishing projects in the past.

A better model— you can set a longer hard-limit deadline for the end of the project, and then avoid creating any little ones. For example, you can say you want to have your book done in a year. When one year passes after starting the project, you’re done, and you release the best version of what you have. Then you just let the year proceed without a lot of micromanaging of your schedule, or draft completion, or any other smaller deadlines and milestones. Once again, this relies on some understanding that you’re actually going to be able to finish the project, and that you’ll work on it throughout that year. Not a huge problem when you really love the project, the characters, the story, and you feel compelled to make the thing. And then, as long as you have a hard end to the project, you can float around inside that time and feel certain it’ll get done.

This is my preferred method. I don’t like rigid structures and tight deadlines. Other people do. Other people perform great by managing everything down to the week or day or hour. For me, over-managing the creative process and setting too many deadlines for myself makes me tone deaf to my natural working rhythms. I will trick myself with my set schedule, and I will complete every deadline the night before it’s due. Maybe if I didn’t have that schedule in place I would have completed that phase of the project three days earlier. But that deadline sticks in my head, so instead of following my drive to work on that phase before it’s due, I tell myself “I have until Sunday” and then I swallow my interest in working on the project then and there, and end up putting it off till right before midnight on Sunday.

All of this is a fancy way of saying I like to work on my projects when it feels right to work on them. As long as I keep the project top-of-mind and continue to daydream about it—and journal a little bit on it daily—then I’ll have an accurate feel when I’m ready to make a push and when I’m not. But if I set a firm schedule, I end up working when the schedule wants me to and not when I, and the project itself, want to put in a few hours.

This is a personal thing. A personality thing. If it sounds like mayhem to you, then you should have a more ordered way of producing your work. And if you’ve never finished a project before, then the external stressors of timelines and deadlines and milestones could be very useful for you. But if you, like me, don’t fit into that style of working, then know this—it isn’t necessary. It’s a shame that most people who write books and articles about how to “get things done” tend to be very organized, disciplined, hardline, schedule-the-process-to-the-minute sort of people. Not because they’re necessarily better at getting things done, but because they’re much more likely to write a book on the subject. This creates a bias where we think these people have all the answers for everyone.

They don’t. Plenty of people get lots of things done while putting only the lightest reins on themselves. And lots of us both prefer how that freedom feels, and work much better without external or internally imposed restraint. By accepting that about ourselves, we finish more projects, we produce better work, and we enjoy our lives more, than we would if we tried to fit a strict system. So I suppose the secret to not losing your mind over all these deadlines is simple—know yourself, know how you get things done, and honor that. More often than not that means being easier on yourself, rather than forcing yourself into a tighter cage.

And as a passing note—if you’re worried that you won’t finish your project if you don’t have a jailer on your back, then I’d suggest you might not like this project (or writing in general) as much as you think you do. The easiest way to stay sane while completing a project in a reasonable amount of time is only working on projects that you love, and working on them doesn’t feel like a burden.

The Girl Who Came Back to Life

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says "Goodbye," and Sends you to the next world. 

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father’s spirits back home with her. 

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother—by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans—Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons—what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.

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Genre – Middle Grade
Rating – PG-13
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