If you’re anything like me, you know that having “all the time in the world” is a bad thing. Don’t believe me? Well, think about this. You’re a student (if you’re not, pretend). You have classes to attend, homework to complete, people to see, places to be, and commitments to keep. You’ve got a full schedule there. So, what about all those things you want to do just for yourself? All the games you want to play, the TV shows you want to watch, and the stories you want to write… “I’ll get to them when I have time.” Well, as you can see, you don’t have time. There are many, many things in our lives that have to be done as soon as possible; if those things aren’t done on time, we’re penalized. There’s nothing else for it; all those things you simply want to do are pushed aside, put on the back burner, and forgotten. You may say you’ll get to it later, but the truth is, if you don’t have time now, then you won’t have time later. That’s not going to change any time soon.
Well, if you don’t have time, then how are you supposed to do all those things you want to do (namely, writing)? You make time. This is where deadlines come in. All those other commitments you have (school, work, promises, etc.) all have something in common: deadlines. Some are very soon; some are further in the future. But that little deadline that’s attached to each and every one of them is a nagging reminder in your head that shouts out every so often “HEY! I’M HERE. DON’T FORGET ME. PAY ATTENTION. I’M IMPORTANT.” Listening to that little deadline motivates you (somewhere) to work on what you should be doing. It’s the same with writing; if you set a deadline for yourself with consequences for missing that deadline (such as not buying that new book you wanted right away), then you’ll be more motivated to write.
Another thing that deadlines help with is setting a goal. I find that I work much better when I have a clear goal in front of me. Saying “I’ll write something today” is almost useless. Saying “I will write at least five pages by the end of the day” is much better. You have a clear deadline (the end of the day) and a clear goal (five pages). You know what you need to accomplish and how long you have to accomplish it.
A tip that I have for writers (NaNoWriMo writers in particular) is this: Write in short spurts. Give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to write with a five or ten minute break between sessions. Some people can sit down and write for long periods of time, but going in sprints like this (with a clear end time in mind) means you’re focused on writing as quickly as possible, as many words as possible, before the timer runs out. You’re focused on getting the basic story down. If it comes out badly, that’s okay; you can always edit it later. What makes these sprints even more fun and helpful is doing them in groups. This is what is called a word war. They’re quite helpful. You set a time to begin and end, and whoever has written the most words in that time period wins. (It’s a good idea to have a little prize for the winner–like chocolate–if you’re in person; on the internet, you’ll have to make do with bragging rights.)
And remember, you can put off writing that great story until “the right time” for as long as you like; just make “the right time” is clearly marked with a deadline.