Discipline, Deadlines and Creativity

Yesterday, in my post "Going Hollywood," I wrote:

You can’t always force creativity, regardless of the immutable reality of a production deadline. But I have to believe that if I have a bad afternoon or a completely wasted day, that I’ll make up for it later.

After reading author Loreth Ann White’s thoughts on the subject, I realized that I needed to clarify my comments. In TV, you can’t wait for inspiration to strike…the show is shooting on Monday whether you are feeling creative or not.  A deadline is a deadline. The pages must be written. A professional TV writer will get them done.

The same is true of my MONK and DIAGNOSIS  MURDER novels. I have 90 days and, in some cases, less to write them. I may not feel motivated or inspired today, or even tomorrow, but I will make up for it later…because I am a professional writer, and that ‘s my job. Some days are better than others. I try not to sweat the bad ones too much (though I do).

What I should have said is that I have faith that if the writing is going badly at any particular moment, I will "get inspired" in time to meet my deadline, whatever that deadline may be.

It’s amazing how inspired I am the closer I get to a deadline. The reality that something has to be done at a certain point forces you to focus and to silence your inner critic.

If I don’t have a real, honest-to-God, make-or-break deadline, then I have a much harder time focusing…which may be Paul’s problem with his pilot.

4 thoughts on “Discipline, Deadlines and Creativity”

  1. In 3.5 years of newspaper writing, I’ve never missed a deadline. Granted, it’s easier to write criticism or journalism on deadline than it is creative fiction… But even so, it’s surprising how motivated you can get to write when the copy is due tomorrow. I even read faster on deadline! 🙂
    On the other hand, when my deadline is a month away… It’s damn easy to get lazy and feel uninspired to write.
    That is one of the toughest things about writing, when you don’t have a deadline or don’t have a contract: there’s no one to answer to. I don’t write 1000 words today? So what? Who’s going to care? Who’s going to complain? YOU have to care, and that can be hard to do.
    Guyot was right: discipline is everything.

  2. > “It’s amazing how inspired I am the closer I get to a deadline”
    Ain’t that the truth.
    One benefit of having MS is constant awareness of the final deadline.

  3. Your comment got me thinking further Lee (scary, I know) And I believe you’re right — there comes a tipping point where you cannot force creativity. While it’s one thing to sit down daily at 3 a.m. and beat the words into submission … year in and year out … it’s quite another to get burnt out.

  4. I agree with the postings of the writers on this page and am inspired as well. I cannot speak as a paid writer but only as one that is in the game, forever about to be produced. I’ve found that the waves of creative juices come with seemed success and likewise they drain with the reality of less and less hollywood truths. Add to that mixture a building family and inspiration becomes muted into a dream with out effort. Reading post from working writers shows that discipline is key.


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