It’s bound to happen to all of us at some point. You hit the wall and you are going to miss a deadline. It can be a fierce case of writer’s block, or perhaps Real Life rears its ugly head. You might come down with the swine flu or a member of the family has a crisis. The point is, your writing comes to a dead stop and there’s nothing you can do about it.
With me, its usually family issues; I caregive for my disabled niece and my elderly mother. Burnout is common among caregivers, and I’m no exception to that rule. I’ve hit that invisible wall more than once.
You stay up late at night, struggling to get words on the page. You cram in a little on your breaks or even on the job. The point I’m making is that sometimes we lose control, and it isn’t pretty. So what does a writer do?
First, communicate. Tell your editor or your publisher. Co-writers if you have them. Please don’t labor in isolation. These are the people who not only rely on you, but have the tools to help you surmount the problem. They might help you gain a few extra days or even reschedule the project.
Second, look objectively at the problem. How many words per day do you have to hit to make your deadline? Can you approach your writing differently? I had a friend who had to write a novel in a shockingly short period of time. She turned to Randy Ingermasson’s Snowflake Method to help her construct her story, and then write it. Her editor was aware of the time constraint and helped her with the extra editing and polishing the manuscript required.
Third, be realistic. Things don’t always go as we plan. If you have a contest or other hard deadline that isn’t contracted, you might simply have to accept that you won’t be able to participate. Just remember, there are lots and lots of contests and calls for submission out there. If you missed a call for an anthology, consider submitting the story as a stand alone. If you don’t have Plan B, then make one.
It’s a terrible feeling to fall short of your obligations, and that in itself can hold you back. For the future, reconsider how you manage your writing. I know that if there’s a hard deadline, I’ll stress, worry and ultimately procrastinate till the last minute. Knowing that about myself, I rarely sign a contract before I have a first draft in hand. I also know that I don’t write well during the fall and winter, so that’s the time of year I focus on editing and promotion.
Know yourself, look at long range goals as well as short term goals and leave enough space in your calendar for change. By doing so, you’ll be able to survive the bad times and shine when things are dim.