It’s inevitable: no matter how you publish, you’re going to hit a tight revision deadline. It’s not unusual, when releasing work with a publishing house, to get a month deadline to turn back global revisions. And sure, a month might sound like a considerable period of time–until you get started. Because global revision isn’t clean. Even when you’ve cleared an outline or a plan of action with your editor, you can often find yourself rewriting a chapter two or three times before you feel you’ve gotten it right. If you spend the better part of a day drafting a chapter, all that ripping up means you’ve burned through the better part of a week–on one chapter. You’ve only got four weeks for the whole book.
You can see where this is going.
Self-imposed deadlines can be just as brutal. Want to publish multiple books in one year? (I usually aim for four indies.) This in itself means sticking to a tight revision deadline. Right now, I’m revising a Christmas story. Obviously, I can’t release it on January 2. It, too, comes with a non-negotiable deadline.
Here’s the thing I’ve learned after years of often brutal deadlines:
You’ve got to budget your time. But you cannot let a deadline kill you. It’s imperative to also take care of yourself.
For me, that means I have to:
Eat solid meals.
Go for walks.
Have coffee with a friend.
Notice the sky.
Play with a silly sketch.
Shoot the breeze with my neighbor or mail carrier, etc.
Quit writing at a reasonable hour and binge a couple of episodes of a series I’m into.
Read a chapter of someone else’s book.
Paint my nails.
Weed the garden.
Get a full night’s sleep.
Admit it. You think all that sounds ridiculous.
If a person is under that kind of horrendous deadline, you’re thinking, there is absolutely no time for any of that.
Here’s the thing, though: there is.
Most of those activities don’t take a ton of time. On average? Probably about twenty minutes. And with the exception of eating and sleeping well, you’re not going to do them all every single day. (I will say, though, that eating and sleeping well are absolutely essential when under deadline. I don’t care how much you have to do and how tight the deadline. If you don’t do both, your head fogs and everything winds up spiraling out of control.)
Seriously, though. Even under the tightest deadline, you can push yourself away from the desk. You can take a few minutes to make a cup of tea. Walk around the block. You’ve got to let your mind rest. You also have to give yourself time to think, which is an entirely different skill than actively putting words on a page.
The next time a deadline starts to make you feel you can’t breathe, just push yourself from your desk. Go outside. Let yourself watch the clouds go by.
I promise you’ll be amazed at what a few minutes to breathe will do.