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Writing Like It’s Your Part Time Job

There’s a corollary to Parkinson’s Law that states “if you wait to the last minute, it only takes a minute to do it,” an adage first my mother, then my wife, will attest that I strictly adhere to. Perhaps it’s the A.D.D. in me, but I just can’t get motivated to do something until the deadline is breathing down the back of my neck and I have no choice but to either hit a home run or fall flat on my face. My high school psychology teacher said that this is the self-sabotage strategy of choice of smart kids when they don’t study for a test: If they fail, it’s because they didn’t study, but if they succeed, it shows how smart they really are.

And yeah, I never studied for tests as a kid. Don’t know if that says I’m smart or stupid now that I’m older.

Anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about harnessing bad habits, and I believe the speed at which I write has a lot to do with never having enough time to write. Because, for years on end, I wrote after my day job. Writing didn’t pay the bills, so it was something I took on each evening, which meant I had maybe four hours at a time to get everything out.

And I’m proud to say I always made my deadlines. Mind you, they were self-imposed deadlines, but that was also part of my handicapping motivational strategy: If I had all the time in the world to write a story, I would take all the time in the world to write said story. So I picked screenwriting contests and use them as my self-imposed deadline.

As odd as it sounds, I’ve been lucky enough in my screenwriting career to always be behind a deadline with producers/ directors who demand an unreasonable turnaround time. I thrive in these stressful situations and can get my words done because with only a few hours each day, I was forced to learn how to maximize my writing time.

All this change when I turned to writing novels. Don’t get me wrong, The Woven Ring was completed in a matter of weeks because of trying to get it done in the window when my producers happened to be on holiday.

But then The Imbued Lockblade came along and I suffered mightily trying to motivate myself to write it. I had all the time in the world to work on it during the days, but the thing just wouldn’t get written. There were some other issues involved, but it wasn’t until I had the looming deadline of an impending kid that I could suddenly get my ass in gear.

And, oddly enough again, now as the kid’s primary caregiver during the days, I’m being a lot more productive. Because I’ve reverted to only 3-4 exhausted hours in the evening to get my writing done. I’m again writing like it’s a part time job, and it’s the best thing that could have happened to me.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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