Let me explain. Yes, I always intend to make every deadline--and in fact, have never missed one in 15 years of full-time freelancing. Why? First, I avoid the "planning fallacy." The planning fallacy refers to a proven fitness concept that people almost always underestimate the amount of time it will take to lose weight or get into shape. The same is true for freelancing—most writers think that assignments won’t take as long as they wind up taking.
Not me! I always assume that a project will take longer than I originally expect—and plan for that. I suggest you do the same. For example, if you think an article will take a total of five days to research and write, plan for it to take seven. If you believe a book proposal will take you six weeks, plan for eight. It’s better to have more time to finish a project than not enough.
Second, I get the lay of the land, so to speak, as soon as I take on an assignment. For articles, that usually means doing background research and identifying potential sources. After I’ve come up with potential sources (whether experts or “real people” anecdotes), I start contacting them to line up interviews. I have to have my interviews done before I can write the piece. If I'm working on a book project, I'll skim over the material I have, make notes about research I need to do, and sketch out a timeline for the work. I won't necessarily stick to it, but it gives me a jump on the project before I officially start it.
But I've found that there's almost always anxiety attached to the work I take on that is large in scope (think books/book proposals). I worry (you might say, obsess) about those big projects pretty much from the time I sign a contract until my client says, "great job!" (and pays me, of course.)
That doesn't mean I'm not confident in my abilities--I have a pretty good sense for what I can do. But I worry about my work, and my ability to do it, and do it on time. I'm just wired that way, and despite going to yoga twice a week, am not likely to change. And you know what? I think some level of anxiety/concern/worry is normal, especially for a challenging assignment, and that it can spur you to do better quality work. At least that's my theory.
But when I hit the OYIW moment, my anxiety fades. I may still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm no longer worried whether I will do it. I know I will. For me, the OYIW is the the 5-mile mark in a 10K (6.2 mile) race.
Even if I've lost enthusiasm for a project, the OYIW gives me a second wind. I can see the metaphorical finish line. I'm able to push harder now. I'm motivated to push harder now. I'm focused, confident, and productive--and I hit my deadline, usually beating it by days (or weeks!). I bask in the glow of a completed assignment, completely anxiety-free...until I sign the next big project, anyway.
*Readers, what about you? Do you have this kind of writer's anxiety? Do you experience a similar moment with your challenging assignments? And does it spur you on to finish? I'd love to hear your comments.
**Got a book you want to write (or have written), but aren't sure about your publishing options? Stay tuned for an announcement on my Jan 5, 2012 Webinar on publishing options today for Writer's Digest. And in the meantime, if you're want to break into ghostwriting, please check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books. I'm teaching a ghostwriting class for Writer's Digest right now and will post here when it's offered again.