There comes a time in every freelance author’s career when they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. A time where they think they’ll have enough time to meet all of their many commitments and get everything in on time. If you keep writing long enough, this will happen to you—probably multiple times.
So what do you do when this happens? If you figure it out, please tell me. Thanks!
Ok, so you have a couple options…
Ask For An Extension
Seriously, just see if one of your deadlines can be pushed back a week or two to buy you some time. Depending on how stacked up you are and the various publishers, which project you want to delay might be obvious and it might not. Prioritize projects that have a further out release date, taking into account that printed products have an extra few months built in for shipping time. Look for publishers that you’ve worked with a lot in the past so they know that this extension is a rare situation, and not likely to come up again… right?
Cancel Your Plans
Even if it’s that thing you’ve been looking forward to. Even if it’s going to be the best episode and you’ll get spoiled if you don’t see it right away. Even if you had tickets to see the movie opening night. Cancel them. I’m not saying to cancel attending your sibling’s wedding or other major life event, but if it’s just your weekly game, maybe let the GM know that you’re going to be absent for a couple of weeks and you’ll catch up with the party later. They’ll live without you (probably).
Curb Your Expectations
Don’t like… throw them out the window, but maybe stop for a moment and realize that not every project gets to be an opus. Hit the high notes and fill in the rest. Get it done. If 3 of 5 encounters are excellent and dynamic, let the other 2 be predictable drivel. maybe even point it out to your developer so they can put a spin on it if they’re so inclined, “I just couldn’t get inspired for this encounter, but it’s important to the plot. If you have any ideas to make it less vanilla…”
Yes, even to that opportunity. Realize when you’re at capacity and just need to say, “I’d love to, but I have a lot of assignments I’m committed to for the next 4-6 weeks. If you still need me after that, I’ll be available.” People are worried that this will mean people won’t want to work with you, but that’s not the case. Usually they see it as responsible that you know your limits, and they’ll see that you’re in high demand. Try to avoid getting overextended in the first place.
Come Up With A Strategy
Map out everything you need to write, how many words, and when it’s due. Put it on a calendar for you to see, visually. Then you can see how much free time you have and get a better idea of how much you can get done in that amount of time. I like to use a bright orange color for due dates on my calendar so that they stare me in the face. I check my calendar often so that I can see which deadlines are getting close and re-prioritize if needed.
Work On The Project You Can Finish the Fastest
All other things being equal, start with projects you can finish the quickest. By finishing, you’ll motivate yourself to keep working on new tasks. Each little accomplishment makes the next accomplishment seem more attainable. This cycle of energy will help propel you through the writing process and you’ll be more efficient overall. Sometimes you have to work on the project that you just aren’t inspired by; that happens. But if you’ve got a little time to shuffle things around, start with the project with the smallest word count or that’s closest to completion. Keep hitting those little goals!
Eat Healthy, Get Rest, Drink Water
For reals, though. Healthy habits means a healthy mind, and a healthy mind is better able to tap into your creative potential. “But Vanessa, I write my best when I’ve had 3 energy drinks, no sleep, and am delirious.” Ok, those moments can sometimes yield wacky ideas that turn out to be brilliant. However, if you’re up against a deadline and just need to bash out 5,000 words so you can turn your assignment in on time, that’s a gamble that’s too risky. Chug a glass of water, eat a vegetable, and take a nap. Then get back to writing because you have a deadline.