Are You a Last-Minute Lucy?

So here it is, the middle of the month, and a feeling of mild panic is starting to grow inside me. I know it well — it has happened every month for the last 8, and I’m sure it will continue to happen for the rest of the year.

I’ve been participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 challenge: 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months in 2012. So far, I haven’t missed a month (yay!) but check out the dates in my folder of rough drafts:

The dreaded Blank Page

JANUARY – January 23

FEBRUARY – February 29 (lucky for me it was a leap year!)

MARCH – March 19

APRIL – April 30

MAY – May 25

JUNE – June 21

JULY – July 30

AUGUST – August 30

Notice a pattern?

Now, some of these last-minute manuscripts are complete gibberish. The February one, in particular, needs a few weeks in the ICU. But strangely enough, I’m actually pretty happy with some of these. And I started to wonder…is there something about a deadline that actually spurs creativity? I searched around on the Internet for an answer and, as often happens on the Internet, found equally compelling arguments on both sides. Some eminent scholars say that deadlines can hamper creative thinking because the time pressure prevents risk-taking. Others argue that a deadline spurs people to act and move forward in their creativity. In fact, about the only thing the eminent scholars agree on is that funding is needed for more research into the topic.

In the meantime, I will most-likely continue my last-minute ways for the foreseeable future. Fellow 12x12ers — join me here on September 30 for a last-minute panic party. (Just kidding. I’ll be too busy to throw a party.)

What about you? Does having a deadline ignite your creative spark, or stamp it out?

14 thoughts on “Are You a Last-Minute Lucy?

    • I know, I actually came up with an idea the other day and thought — maybe I should save that for November. Which is ridiculous, of course, and not the point at all. Still, I’m looking forward to November!

  1. I’m not doing 12X12 this year, but I’d love to next year. In any event, I am definitely invigorated by a deadline, especially when I’m at a tricky point in my story and need some motivation to keep plugging on.

    • I agree, Laura. I think at a certain point having a deadline makes you write SOMEthing as opposed to nothing at all, so it helps you to explore ideas, even those that ultimately don’t work.

  2. Deadlines definitely help me. So do parameters. Bethany Telles had a birthday contest on her blog last week which I totally forgot about until the last minute. Under the gun to write something, I was able to pull together a story in about an hour! (Now mind you, it wasn’t world class literature 🙂 but it was something!) And I find that once you have something, it often leads to other, better things 🙂

  3. I start lots of drafts – it’s finishing them that I need the deadline for! Sometimes I’ll grab the one that is closest to complete and polish it up for the month.

    When I really love an idea I can roll something out pretty fast, but I get too wordy. Once I hit 1,000 words I force myself to stop and edit before going on, so that’s a kind of word max deadline that I impose on myself too!

    • Me too, Cathy. I can just go on and on. It is literally torture to me to have to pare stories down to under 700 words (and I know even that is long). It’s a great exercise and I can see that usually the stories are better for it but still not my natural inclination.

  4. Deadlines give a sense of urgency and a need to compelte for sure. I’ve been both during the challenge. This month, I saw an email after I woke up and began writing my draft 30 minutes later. Mostly, I’ve been last minute. I gave myself a person goal of the 12th of the month. I’ve met that goal like three times.

  5. Deadlines definitely inspire me to get my BIC (butt in chair). However, because I’m mostly writing nonfiction, each MS requires at least a few weeks’ research. I at least have to know my topic a few days before deadline or I’m toast.

    • Wow, that would require a lot of advance preparation. I think it is a great idea to focus on non-fiction, Kirsten. Some of the nonfiction picture books I’ve seen recently have been just gorgeous.

  6. Ummm…. hah.. I nearly didn’t comment, but then I thought you will find out anyway….lol. I start with all good intentions and then as time goes on I procrastinate… that is until someone kicks my butt!..lol. I guess I like deadlines, and someone to keep me honest, so I will meet all deadlines…. 12×12 has been good for me.

    Reminds me gotta go…..

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