As a follow-up to Suzanne Strempek Shea’s piece last week about organizing your writing life, Joe Schuster offers this additional suggestion:
“Deadlines always help me finish something, largely because I spent so many years writing for newspapers and magazines--but I find that deadlines from an external source help more than my saying, ‘I will finish thus and such by so and so.’ Years ago, when I was struggling in the early days of the novel I've been working on and I found I couldn't get myself to sit down to write, I confessed to a friend that I never have a problem finishing something if there's an editor waiting and a check in the offing. I said, ‘It's too bad that no one is paying me to write this.’ So it occurred to me that I could make NOT working on it cost me something.
"I made a deal with him that if I didn't finish 50 pages of the novel in two months, I would donate money to a cause--but realized it couldn't be a cause I supported but one that I didn't like. So I gave him a post-dated check made out to a political party I am not fond of and told him to mail it if I didn't show him the fifty pages by that date. I ended up writing twenty pages the two days before the deadline—and they were surprisingly good and the section has survived a number of revisions—but he never mailed the check.”
(You may remember Joe’s great piece about writers over 40, here.)