My Top 4 Rules for Being Creative on a Deadline
by Jessica Bell
Ever struggled with being creative on a deadline? Find yourself pulling your hair out getting those revisions back to your agent/publisher/editor on time? I certainly have. So I’d like to share a few things that helped me push through the pressure.
But first, I have to say, everyone is different. Everyone writes at different speeds, deals with stress in different ways, has different expectations of themselves. So you need to figure out what works for you. But perhaps reading about what my experiences might help you find a procedure you’re comfortable with.
- Stop thinking about what other people will think of your work. And write honestly.
Trust me. My first version of my debut novel was written for an audience. It kept being rejected again and again—for five years. And then I found a publisher who saw something in me and made an effort to get to know me. She said my book was good, but that it felt like she was watching the characters through a window. She said: “Go deeper.” So I dug deeper and dragged the truth from my heart and soul. A truth I was afraid to even admit were there. But it resulted in an honest book—a book I didn’t know I had in me. And one, I hope women will be able to relate to. It’s glory-less, but real. And real steals hearts.
- You will write faster if you focus on one paragraph at a time. I will never forget Anne Lamott’s advice from Bird by Bird (best book on writing I’ve ever read): write what you can see through a one-inch frame.
The reason I say this, is because knowing how much you have to revise can sometimes be overwhelming, and you might try to get through as much as possible and forget to focus your attention on the quality of your work. If you make each paragraph the best it can be before you move on, you won’t have to return to it..
- Divide your revision time into short bursts.
I find that if I give myself only one or two hours a day, sometimes even shorter periods of time, I’m forced to come up with solutions to troubled areas that I wouldn’t normally think of. The brain works in mysterious ways when it’s under pressure, and sometimes a little self-inflicted pressure can push you to great heights. Can you believe I wrote the first draft of The Book in only three days? I did this because I experimented with this idea. It worked. But be careful not to expect too much from yourself. There is nothing worse than becoming unmotivated due to not reaching personal goals. Which brings me to my fourth rule …
- To start with, set your goals low.
Set goals that you know for a fact you can reach. If you set them too high, and continuously fail to meet them, you are going to feel really bad about yourself. This may result in neglecting your goals all together. I know this from personal experience. If you later realise that you are meeting your goals with ease, gradually make them more challenging. But I strongly urge you to start small. It’s better to meet easy goals, than to struggle meeting difficult goals. It’s a major hazard for self-esteem, motivation, and creativity.
How about you? What rules do you live by when revising your work?
If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she currently resides in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written.
Jessica is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and annually runs the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.
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Genre – Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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