Do you have deadlines? Or do you have ‘creative checkpoints’?

I have a love and hate relationship with deadlines. I love it when I make my own. I hate it when they are handed down to me (with completely unrealistic expectations for completion). But, on the other hand, I love getting deadlines from other people. It makes me want to prove myself. I have a goal and an objective that forces me to make things happen. Because if I’m honest with myself, I know how making my own deadlines can go: I get lax. I put things off. I don’t have anyone holding me accountable but me.

Such is the struggle.

Since I started writing books, I never gave deadlines much thought. I could always work at my own pace. Nobody was looking over my shoulder. Yet as I began to release more stories and I saw people reading them, the pressure began to mount.

How soon can I get the next one out? 

If I don’t finish this next project by the end of next month, will I lose the interest of my readers? 

Should I move on to something else? 

A lot of questions began to circulate; the majority of which revolved around uncertainty. And where uncertainly festers, so does anxiety. It didn’t take long for me to realize that if I worked at a pace dictated by my audience, then I was going to sink fast. I would never be able to keep up and the quality of my work would diminish. So instead of trying to create unrealistic deadlines for myself, I decided I needed to work smarter, not with a sense of fear. I needed to make checkpoints, not hard stops. I needed to give myself space to breathe; not suffocate.

As much as creatives want no borders – no barriers to their creative impulses – it is of the utmost importance that we structure ourselves around a schedule. In that way, we can allow for our creativity to flow, not constrict.

For more on that, I’ll be discussing in my latest episode: “Do you have deadlines? Or do you have creative checkpoints?” 

 

The Writer’s Lens – On YouTube now!

I’m happy to announce every one of my podcast episodes can now be found on YouTube.

So not only are my interviews on YouTube, but every one of my individual episodes too.

And if you’re someone who doesn’t like doing the YouTube thing – no worries – you can still find me at iTunes and Podbean.

Because not everyone needs a visual to go with their audio, of course.

 

“I was more invested in the process; not the product itself.” – Daniel Luketic, entrepreneur

A lot goes into getting an idea off the ground. Careful planning. Risk-taking. Gathering one’s resources. Creative endeavors are never small undertakings. And though one may think intangibles like divine inspiration or sheer determination separate the winners from the losers – there’s another trait I’d argue to be equally important: the willingness to fail.

When I interviewed my (former) college roommate, Daniel, we agreed beforehand that our main topic of conversation would be his first business venture. After graduation, I ran off into the insurance world while he got busy working for a startup. And while I was loathing my existence – drowning in insurance policies – Daniel was building technology for insurance agencies. A project which culminated with him selling the business off.

Sounds like not a happy ending. Or, rather, perhaps a failed one. But, Daniel had a different perspective.

I wasn’t interested in the product necessarily. I was more interested in the process. Learning how to troubleshoot. Learning to come up with solutions. 

I wanted to ask Daniel, why insurance? Aren’t there more lucrative and exciting industries to get involved in? That wasn’t the point though. In fact, the point wasn’t about insurance – it was about building a skill set and cultivating one’s strengths.

This was my greatest takeaway from interviewing my one-time bunk-bed-buddy. Yes, one ought to find a niche. But, we ought to be just as invested in learning how to build better work habits, i.e. troubleshooting, presenting solutions and then actually carrying out. How many times have you been in a workplace where nothing happens until something bad happens? I’ve been in those environments. They aren’t fun. And they don’t grow either. Personally or on the macro level.

Yet, by taking the vantage point of: what am I willing to learn from this experience? Then we’ve already put ourselves miles ahead of our competition. But, we must be willing to put ourselves out there. Make mistakes. Then keep going.

If you’d like to forego our smiling faces and listen to the audio-only version of the interview, you can check it out here.

 

Coming up for air

So, have you taken in the new year yet? It’s been 2014 for a little over a week now. Actually, it’s been about two weeks if you’re counting correctly. Anything changed for you yet? Anything worth reporting on? Celebrating, perhaps?

Well, as for me, I made some small goals last year and I was blessed by having several of those goals realized. And as a bonus, I had a few others come my way that I wasn’t expecting. That was very exciting. This is not to say that I didn’t experience some unexpected problems. I cut ties with my publisher; I gave up several social things (such as coaching and my wonderful bowling team) and my car was in the shop more than it was on the road. But if that’s all that I have to worry about, then I’m doing rather well.

In my last post, I stressed how I was going to not stress about the big goals I may have. To be better at taking things as they come. Turns out that’s a really hard thing to do for a Type A like myself. But that’s what I also love about it – the challenge. And because of said challenge, I did something to further stretch myself in the new year: I fasted from writing for a week. And when I say “writing”, I mean anything creative. No making notes, no blogging, no preparation – nada.

That probably doesn’t make much sense considering how I’m a writer. I need to write in order to survive – both financially and for my own peace of mind. So taking a break from writing may appear to be something like professional suicide. Like an employee who takes a week’s vacation without pay. But I knew this was a needed appointment with myself, regardless of my apprehensions towards the decision.

Why? Well, it’s simple: we need breaks. Fasting is more than just the act of being fast. And it’s more than just giving up something for a short while because you were told to do so. It’s a release. Too many times we find ourselves in the same old, same old. We repeat patterns of behavior, for good or bad, and we slowly grow accustom to the familiarity of whatever process we’ve adopted. What started out as inspirational may become routine; thus, lacking any heart, any conviction, or any proof of passion. That piece of us, the reminder, becomes buried beneath all the busy work of the objective. Pursuit is cast aside and the vision becomes clouded.

Knowing this, I took a breather. Writing can be a spontaneous yet grueling trade to take up, but I love it all the same. And as with anything that’s anchored in creativity, we need to take a hiatus once in a while. If nothing else, to be reminded of the call that we were given a long time before passion was replaced with procedure and process. Not that those things are bad – procedure and process – we need both to effectively live our lives, but we also need to have the passion to live it fully.

So here I am, a week later, and the writing juices are free to flow once more. I’m excited to see what happens.