Jessica Johnson | Issue 1
How to Meet a Writing Deadline
Jessica Johnson offers excellent tips for those struggling to meet a writing deadline.
How to Meet A Writing Deadline
Start by writing whatever you know. Sometimes this is just the title of an assignment or the bullet points you were handed by the editor. (I learned to do this when newspaper editors would unexpectedly move up my deadline from 5 pm to 2 pm. Terrifying!)
Give yourself time to write the assignment. 90% of the time, writing will not go smoothly — you’ll realize what you thought was your story is actually something different. You might need more research. The night before deadline is too late for new interviews.
Make up mini-deadlines:
rough draft finished
Stagger these according to the time you have, whether it's a day or a month. If you blow them — we all do — rework them in the time you have. This also works to defeat the fear of failure.
I can hear you saying, “But I’m a last-minute person!" It’s true that you *can write that way. I never saw a draft that was finished at midnight that wouldn’t have been better if it had been finished a day earlier, with another polish and proofread.
Normally, I give myself 2-3 days to write even a short article, because I know I’ll get bored or frustrated or distracted by “emergencies” — that’s when you watch a movie or go for a walk. Ideas will come to you in the shower, when eating, when talking to someone randomly.
Ask your editor for help. Too many writers are worried that editors will think they're stupid or that you’ll be fired. But most editors would far rather hear about issues you’re facing early on than wait while you drag your heels and miss your deadline.
Even the most accomplished and experienced writers feel like frauds a lot. Everyone. The best writers are the people who don’t run from that — they lean into it as part of writing. You know what? You're not supposed to know how to do the thing till you've done it.
Everyone says this but it’s always good to hear it: The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Just meet your deadline, within ball park, make your word count, within ball park, write something a reasonable person would understand. Chances are, it’ll do.
The struggle we all feel — figuring out what something’s supposed to be without a map — is the genius and gift of writing. You’ll feel so good when you’re done. But don’t fight the process, because that is writing — figuring out how to express what only you have found.
When in doubt about how to write, think about other people. Obliterate your existence and LinkedIn profile. How will they know what you have to share if you don’t tell them? How can you say it as clearly as possible — for their sake?
If you are struggling to find the perfect word/line/title of your first draft, chances are you’re thinking about it too much. Just hand it in. When in doubt, hand it in.
I wrote this because I was procrastinating on a deadline.
If you liked these tips, check out Jessica’s Twitter thread on How to Pitch a Magazine.
Issue #1 of Send My Love to Anyone
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