Life on Deadline

For me, the key to quality work on deadline is remove all decisions except the one’s that pertain to my scenes and characters. No real life decisions. No phone calls. No appointments outside the house. All of these things improve the likelihood of a successful day.

My ground rules:

1) Recognize and appreciate the time away from the keyboard is just as important as the time in front of it. Took me a long time to learn this one, and I felt guilty for every second I wasn’t sitting in front of the keyboard. But, for me, not all writing is done at the keyboard.

2) Say no to 99.9% of the invites that come my way while on deadline. The exceptions I’ve allotted thus far are: meeting with critique partners, doctor’s appointments, standing date with Grandma, and visiting with people who are in KC via airplane.

3) Take care of my body.

a) Don’t sit too long. My back and neck can bother me something furious. I end up in pain which distracts me from my writing. The physical breaks are often chores, but sometimes they are stretches or Pilates moves.

b) Switch up my chair/where I’m sitting in the house. I alternate between working at my desk on a kneeling chair and working on the couch/big chair in my living room.

c) Listen to the cats. When they jump on the keyboard it typically means I’ve been working for a while and it’s time for me to take a break.

d) Go to Pilates or on a walk every day. Get a massage when my neck and back get unbearable.

4) Be very, very careful about what I let in my brain. I read as far away from the genre I’m writing in as possible and watch benign TV shows and podcasts—primarily interview shows or feel good, inspirational, biographical non-fiction type things. Social media is very quick (2 minutes or less) breaks to respond to people who have messaged or commented on my stuff.

5) Most importantly stay out of all drama be it personal, political, or familial. The kind of writing that makes people cry their guts out when they read it takes a lot of emotional space to create. I don’t have the emotional resilience to do drama in the real world and drama in my created world without destroying myself.


Here’s a day in the oh so glamourous deadline life:

Wake up to starving cat—he’s clearly dying even though my roommate fed him within the last hour.

Chug lots of water.

Stumble to kitchen. Put kettle on to boil.

Feed cats.

Steep Tea. Chores until tea is ready. (i.e. Dishes, clean the cat boxes, laundry)

Drink Tea while writing morning pages—three handwritten pages in my journal to get last night’s nightmares out of my brain.

Drink tea while eating breakfast. (Breakfast is always the same.) 4-7 Club crackers spread with Smuckers All-Natural-Crunchy Peanut Butter. 0-3 M&Ms per cracker. Read a classic children’s book (i.e. Winnie The Pooh, The Berenstain Bears, The Secret Garden, etc.) while eating.


Meditate for forty minutes. I lie down to meditate. Cat helps by flopping on me, walking on me, and ultimately sitting and sleeping on me. Sometimes he drools on me too.

Pet cat with extreme dedication and both hand 5-10 minutes.

Set forest app on phone for 25 minutes with Writing tag.

Write. 25-45 minutes followed by 5-15 minute break with physical chores/activity of some sort.

Repeat last 2 steps until hungry.

Lunch. (This meal is always the same and can be used for either dinner or lunch.) 2 baked boneless skinless chicken tenders, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetable (broccoli, green beans, or zucchini & squash) A tiny CocaCola Classic. (The 90 calorie baby cans. I’m hyper-sensitive to caffeine, much more than this and I’m too amped up to focus.) Listen to podcast or watch an interview show while eating.

Write. 25-45 minutes followed by 5-15 minute break with physical chores/activity of some sort

Repeat last step 2-3 times.

5:30 Pilates class or hour long walk around the neighborhood while listening to podcast

Dinner. Whatever is in the fridge.

Netflix something low stress (i.e. Queer Eye, Comedians in Cars getting Coffee, Talk shows, etc.)

Write. 25-45 minutes followed by 5-15 minute break with physical chores/activity of some sort.

Repeat if brain allows. Most likely it won’t and I am a word zombie at this point.

Wash face and brush teeth for bed.

Journal: what I want to let go of from today and what I am grateful for from today. Write 3-5 things I want to accomplish tomorrow, followed by my current goal 15 times.



Do It All Again.


An extended version of this post went out to my email list. It included behind the scenes details on my actual writing process, like how I build scenes.

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