Whether you’ve got a deadline imposed by an editor, a contest entry cutoff, or self-imposed, if you’re up against the clock (through sheer amount of work or procrastination), it’s pretty easy to literally make yourself sick doing nothing else but writing.
I decided to gather up some tips for making sure that doesn’t happen and that you stay both Happy and Healthy during the race against time.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of hiding out in a remote cabin in the mountains to fulfill our deadline dash. You’re going to still have obligations. Schedule them. You may feel like devoting 24/7 to your writing, but taking breaks to do the necessities of life will actually let you focus better when you are writing. So make yourself a schedule. Knowing when you’ll be taking breaks will make you less anxious than it would to just find yourself suddenly having to stop midsentence and switch gears.
Writing non-stop with no sleep makes Jackie a lousy writer. It’s a scientific fact that our brains perform more poorly when deprived of sleep. So make sure you get good snooze-time and you’ll be more alert, creative and productive during your sprints toward the end.
Getting rid of distractions may seem like a given, but a lot of us don’t think of e-mail, Facebook and Twitter as distractions…we think of them as just a notch below coffee on the necessity scale. But each time they pull our attention from our story (just like when we’re READING a good story and are disgruntled at being interrupted), it takes a while to get back into the work. Temporarily turn off the notifications, block the sites from your computer with programs such as Leech Block, and shut off your phone. The sooner you reach The End, the less time you’ll spend in that deadline mode, and the sooner you can get back to writing on an even keel again.
While we’d like to believe we can live on caffeine alone, it’s just not true. A few hours (or days) of subsisting only on java and our cells start breaking down and protesting. While caffeine can keep us awake long and does aid (possibly) in concentration and focus, at least temporarily, nothing beats good nutrition for keeping us physically capable of putting in long hours. With steady blood sugars in mind, plan ahead for your deadline rush by making up easily prepared meals and snacks ahead of time, so your interruptions for food are minimal. That will increase your willingness to take regular breaks.
Being so singularly focused can actually make you feel fuzzy after a while, let alone what it will do to your body being in one position for so many hours at a time. So, while you’re breaking for that snack, do a few stretches, take a 30 minute walk around the block, or a few jumping jacks to get your blood pumping. Exercise is a great stress reliever, too, so it can help bring you back down to earth when you’re sure there’s no way you’ll ever meet your deadline.
Deadlines can be managed with attention to a few of the details above. There’s no reason, with a little care, that you should need to take to your bed for a week after a deadline dash just to recover. You’ll get the writing done and still be able to go out for a celebratory dinner afterward.