Sunday, August 4, 2013

Freedom, Deadlines, Contracts, and Obligations

I was asked to submit to a project, and boy, I love having an assignment. I love having parameters. I love working within limitations.

I'm not under contract -- I'm still writing under spec and my piece may not be chosen. But it's lovely to begin with a set of requirements instead of a blank page. I work best with a deadline -- I always have. That's when I stop dithering and get to work. Self-motivation is not my middle name.

That's why for many, projects like National Novel Writing Month work so well. If you need a deadline, give yourself one, in a very public way with plenty of support and accountability. A critique group can serve the same purpose.

On the other hand, I've never tried to draft a novel under contract, and from observing my friends, that's a whole other beast. Some of them get into the flow and manage to productivity that amazes me. Others find their creativity withering under the obligation.  Plot holes loom. Words stick. It feels like typing underwater.

I've also had friends succeed at writing work for hire and development projects, while others turn it down. Writing work for hire can be tremendously creative, satisfying work for someone who thrives on frameworks and deadlines, while it can seem like drudgery for those who need to work in the open. They burst with shiny new ideas that must shine in the corner, unattended. They long for the freedom to write whatever they want.

Do you work best with freedom or limits? How does your creative process differ when you're self-motivated, versus writing under contract or deadline? How do you create accountability that motivates you to keep going?


  1. "They burst with shiny new ideas that must shine in the corner, unattended. They long for the freedom to write whatever they want." <---- This is me. Deadlines and limits freak me out and make me draw a blank. I wish I could work under pressure, but I panic instead! LOL! For those of you who do well under pressure, I APPLAUD YOU!!! :)

  2. I write under deadline for a regional magazine. The editors supply me with the topic and often the contacts.

    What I like about it is that I know A) what to write about B) I will get paid, and C) in just a few months (and sometimes weeks), I will see my work published on shiny page-layouts with awesome photos and graphics!!!

    However, I find this type of writing to be less creative, like I'm using the all-logic part of my brain where playgrounds exist in faraway lands.

    Oh, but when I write for the sheer joy of it...I LOVE THAT! Still, not getting paid or published after finishing a manuscript that I LOVE--that's a bummer, too.

    So I guess, for me, it's a conundrum!


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