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Deadlines: The Good, the Bad, and the Divine

By Kathy Harris

What better time to talk about deadlines than during the holidays? In contemporary society our lives are fret with hurry most every day. But this time of year compounds those commitments, from holiday parties to shopping for gifts to end-of-the-year work and/or school obligations-not to mention the added expectations and desires to spend time with our families.

It’s no wonder deadlines have such a bad reputation. I mean, who in his or her right mind would ask for that kind of stress? Well, perhaps we don’t exactly ask, but for writers deadlines are a way of life.
And, in fact, they can be good for us.

1. Deadlines take a stand against perfectionism. Without a time limit we would never finish our work. Writers without deadlines have been known to tweak the same manuscript for months, even years, fixing and fidgeting over the mere juxtaposition of words or worrying about grammatical usages, which may be changing as you read this. (Note: An enlightening discussion about the rules of grammar and punctuation took place recently on the ACFW main loop, and the consensus was in favor of worrying less about where to place your commas and more about working to discover your unique writer’s voice.)

2. Deadlines teach discipline. Discipline is something we all need, whether we’re writers or not. Very simply, it can be defined as setting a goal and meeting it.

3. Deadlines help us learn to roll with the flow. Life sometimes sends surprises our way. Our response to those unexpected detours in our path can make all the difference in how they affect us. If we stay focused, despite the roadblocks or even the unforeseen opportunities, we can meet our deadlines by learning to prioritize.

4. Finally, deadlines give us confidence, not in ourselves but in Him who has called us to write. If God has called us, He has also given us the means to complete the task at hand, whether its purpose is to help us grow or to touch many. Our confidence is not in our own frail words but in His ability to use them.

Deadlines can be a writer’s best friend. They teach us discipline, organization, spontaneity, and to keep our eyes on God. If you want to be a professional writer (you know, the kind with deadlines?), you need to start exercising your deadline muscles. One of the best ways is to set a daily/weekly/monthly word or time goal.

Another is to enter contests. Contests are trial runs for professional deadlines when you will be juggling multiple publishing commitments.

If you’re an unpublished Christian novelist and you want to enter a writing contest, one of the best opportunities to do that is coming soon. The ACFW Genesis contest will open for submissions after the first of the year. For more information click here.

But remember, the deadline will come sooner than you think.

Kathy Harris wrote this blog post while under deadline for edits of her debut novel, The Road to Mercy, to be released by Abingdon Press in Fall 2012. She also blogs regularly about the ‘divine detours’ of her music and literary guests at www.DivineDetour.com.

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4 Responses to Deadlines: The Good, the Bad, and the Divine

  1. Ruby Depuy says:

    I read this blog with great interest because my novel, THUNDERBIRD, is just such a story, and I’ve had difficulty describing it. At its core, it’s a love story that shows the power of faith in overcoming tragedy. The mystery enhances the struggle, bringing faith to the fore. Your blog described it perfectly!

    I will be holding a booksigning at Lifeway Christian Store in Amarillo, Texas, on Saturday, December 17 from 1-3 in the afternoon. If you’re in the area, join us!

    God bless!
    Ruby Depuy

  2. Dani Pettrey says:

    Kathy,

    Thanks so much for the wonderful post!
    I absolutely loved this line:
    “Our confidence is not in our own frail words but in His ability to use them.” I’m writing that down and pinning it on my bulletin board.

    Blessings,
    Dani Pettrey

  3. Kathy Harris says:

    Thanks for your comments, Ruby and Dani. Best wishes with your book, Ruby!

    Blessings to you both!

    Kathy

  4. Linda Cox says:

    Beautifully said, Kathy. Knowing the deadlines you were under while writing this makes it that much more meaningful. Having “watched” you place your deadlines and hectic schedule into His hands so many times has also been an encouragement and inspiration to me. I can hardly wait to hold that debut novel in my hand! Blessings always, Dear Friend! Love you!