How To Use Deadlines To Beat Resistance To Writing

by Marcus Sheridan

writing deadlinesNote from Marcus*** This is a guest post from my friend Paul Wolfe at One Spoon at a Time. I hope everyone, upon reading this article, helps Paul out with his growing community and stops by his site to give a little support to his new blog. :-)

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Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

This quote about writing – from author Gene Fowler – plays up to the stereotype of the writer as a struggling creative who must wait for divine intervention from the muse before he or she can capture their staggering brilliance on paper.

And for every writer who actually writes regularly there are thousands who suffer from ‘writer’s block.’

Maybe tens of thousands.

And it doesn’t have to be this way – because I don’t believe writer’s block actually exists.  Writer’s block is a name people give to the inbuilt resistance that we all have to actually sitting down and writing.

Before we look at how to actually beat Resistance, let’s explore it a bit further.

So What Exactly Is Resistance?

The term ‘Resistance’ was coined by best selling author Steven Pressfield in his book “The War Of Art.”  Basically Resistance is an internal force that all writers, indeed all content creators, have to overcome to produce their work on a regular basis.

Resistance comes from the Ego parts of our brain.  One of the jobs that’s been assigned to the Ego by thousands of years of evolution is self-preservation.  And the Ego has learned that one of the easiest ways of self-preservation is to love the status quo and abhor change.

Why? Because change brings….well, change.  And with change comes new challenges, new obstacles, and possible new dangers.  So the Ego will resist change, and try and maintain a situation of status quo.

How Does Resistance to Writing Manifest Itself?

Resistance has got many plays in its playbook to stop us writing.  How many of you have experienced any of these when you sat down to write a blog post or article for your website:

(i)                 Suddenly finding lots of non-urgent tasks to do before you commence writing.

(ii)               Suffering from self-doubt.

(iii)             Slowing down your writing with persistent editing and re-editing.

(iv)             Here’s my favourite: coming up with another, and potentially more brilliant, idea in the middle of your writing.

Now by definition you are creative – you’re a writer, right? – and you can devise strategies to overcome and bypass all of these methods that Resistance uses to try and stop you writing.

But remember what I said about Resistance coming from the Ego?  And how the Ego is in charge of self-preservation?  Well knowing that  can lead us to a tactic that we can use that will not only get rid of resistance, but actively enlist the Ego on our side so that it wants us to do our writing.  No, not only does it want us to do our writing – it NEEDS us to do our writing.

How can we get the ego on our side?? – we use a deadline.

The Power of Deadlines

It’s all to do with self-preservation.  In most situations the Ego wants the status quo – because it is safe, and it is a known quantity.  And it will fight tooth and nail to resist change – because change brings the unknown.  And maybe danger.

So what we have to do is turn the tables on the Ego and make the status quo a position that the Ego will associate with ‘danger’ and make change – the act of writing – something that will get us out of danger.  Do that and the Ego will fight tooth and nail with us – as a willing ally – to make sure our writing gets done.

Setting a deadline for your writing can accomplish that.

Here’s the thing though – the deadline has got to mean something.  It’s no use just writing in your writing plan that you’re going to write an article on Tuesday and expecting the Ego to climb aboard the writing train.

Nope.  You’ve got to fight smarter than that.  And harder.  And dirtier.  You’ve got to make your deadline unbreakable.

How Do I Make My Deadline Unbreakable?

Your deadline has got to mean something.  If you miss it, something bad has got to happen.  Something bad enough to make the Ego sit up and take notice.

So if you write a really popular blog with thousands of readers and commit to publishing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday – well, that would probably do it.  If you miss the publishing deadline and start getting a ton of emails in your Inbox asking what happened to today’s post….well, the Ego will hate that.

It will cringe every time your email program pings and another email drops in.

But What If I Don’t Have A Popular Blog?  How Can I Set An Unbreakable Deadline?

OK, true story time.  I run a website dealing with the teaching of the bass guitar to beginners and intermediate players.  One of the ways that site generates income is via a Membership Ezine.  The Subscription to the Ezine is $97 annually, and every Friday at 5.00PM GMT I email out a PDF that’s somewhere between 45 to 65 pages long.  Last Friday’s issue was Number 74 – so I’ve been doing it for around 17 months.

In that time period I’ve never been late. Not once.  That includes holidays, birthdays, illnesses and all the other stuff that’s woven into the tapestries of our lives.  Here’s the thing though – most weeks I don’t start writing the magazine until 9.30 AM on Thursday morning.

And between then and 5.00 PM the next day I’ve created my 50 page Ezine.  For sure some weeks I’m up on Thursday night until way past midnight, but not always.  But when I sit down to start work on the Ezine every Thursday my own Resistance vanishes – because there are 300 plus people waiting for that Ezine to come out.  If they don’t get it they WILL email me and ask where it is.

My Ego hates the thought of those emails – and come Thursday morning it slides right out of the way and let’s me get on with my content creation.

Creating Your Own Unbreakable Deadline

To create your own unbreakable deadline what you need to do is find a way where the result of not meeting the deadline is worse than meeting the deadline.

Say you want to write an eBook to sell on your website and you’re struggling to make the time to write – create a deadline by pre-selling it to your audience.  Once you’ve got $1000 or more in your Paypal account – and 50 or more purchasers waiting for your promised publication date – I guarantee that you’ll get the seat of your pants firmly applied to the seat of your chair on a regular basis until that eBook is written.

How about if you want to maintain a regular blog posting schedule?  Try something like this – post on your blog what your schedule is going to be.  And then post that every time you miss the publication date you’re going to donate $100 to the MacMillan Trust or another equally good cause.

Remember that you’re a writer – so by definition you are creative.  Come up with a creative way to make your own unbreakable deadline that the Ego won’t want to be broken – because it hurts -  and you’ll find that all the personal barriers to writing will fade away.

Summary

1)  If you write you suffer resistance in one form or another.  Reading Steven Pressfield’s ‘The War Of Art’ will take you a long way towards a greater understanding resistance.

2)       Remember that resistance is driven by the ego – and is part of its ‘self preservation’ mechanism.  The Ego abhors change.

3)      But you can turn the tables on your Ego – if the ego perceives the status quo of not writing to be more damaging than actually writing it will quickly realign itself and positively support your writing or content creation activities.

4)      You turn the tables on your Ego by setting a deadline.  That deadline has to have meaning – something that the Ego perceives as ‘bad’ has to happen if you break the deadline.

The Next Step

Writing or any form of content creation done on a regular basis is truly The War Of Art.  Using Deadlines is one tactic that we can employ against resistance.  You’ll find some more on the blog portion of my website.  Maybe start here : How To Avoid Writers Block 1 – The Professional Mindset

Liked this post? Then subscribe to or head on over to Paul’s excellent site that is chock full of helpful tips for writers and bloggers just like you and me.

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcus Sheridan March 5, 2011 at 11:18 am

Paul, let me be the first to say this article was tremendous, especially for your first guest post. You should be proud, as you’ve tackled a subject that all of us have struggled with as writers at one time or another. Thanks again.

Marcus

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Marcus,

Thanks for the opportunity to publish a guest post here on The Sales Lion – a blog I’ve enjoyed visiting ever since I discovered it via Tristan at Blogging Bookshelf. I hope your audience enjoy it – and I’ll make a public pledge (a kind of deadline!) to answer every comment personally!

Paul

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Jon March 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm

This was fantastic, Paul. You gave sound advice on how to belly up the accountability bar. If we openly share with people what our posting schedule is “or else” then we’re more likely to adhere to it.

Also, congratulations on your growing Membership Ezine. Many, many people would be eager to have you mentor them on how to set something like that up. You also write a lot in a short period of time which I’m sure people would love to pick your brain on how to accomplish.

For me, the greatest motivator is sharing with people in the physical world what my goals are and then setting out to achieve them. What you mentioned about deadlines is great because once you set deadlines and commit yourself to them you feel compelled to carry out the work.

We’re creatures of habit…if we make “meeting deadlines” a part of our routines then we’ll [happily] get stuck in that routine.

Thanks so much!

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Hey Jon

The blogosphere is a small place, I just posted a comment after yours over at Danny’s Fireproof Marketing website! Thanks for your comment – setting unbreakable deadlines can be a great motivator to make sure you apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and get writing.

Paul

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Steve@Internet Lifestyle March 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Paul.

I absolutely agree. Setting firm time limits really helps to get things done. Nature abhors a vacuum, when you have too much time available you find a way to fill that time.

Thanks for telling me bout the Pressfield book. I love his historical fiction books and would love to read what he has to about creativity.

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Hey Steve

Thanks for the comment – if you like Pressfield’s historical fiction (and Gates of Fire absolutely rocks!) I’m sure you will like The War Of Art. If audio is your preferred learning modaility, there’s an audio version available from Nightingale Conant that Pressfield actually narrates – unlike a lot of authors he’s a pretty good speaker too.

Back in the 90s I emailed Pressfield just to say thanks for writing the War of Art – he had the grace to email me back. I’ll never forget that. I have the email somewhere on an old PC (I’m a MacHead these days). And that email on the Hard Drive is the only reason I’ve never junked the PC, as it’s a heap of c**p.

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 5:47 pm

One of the things in the email from Pressfield was the fact that he would never be writing anything about resistance again, he was done on the topic.

(If I remember correctly he said something like: I’d rather read what YOU or someone like YOU writes on the topic – I must dust that old PC down and get to that email!)

Anyway, reason I’m replying again, is there’s a post on Pressfield’s blog about a project that Seth Godin has, called the Domino Project, and it’s a new publishing model. And Pressfield is doing a book that he says…if you like The War Of Art, then you’ll love this. That’s all he’ll say about it.

But you should go check the post out if you’re at all interested in publishing and publishing models.

paul

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Danny @ Firepole Marketing March 5, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Hey Paul, it is a small blogosphere, indeed! :D

This is a fantastic post – I’m really glad you shared it with me. I keep hearing about Pressfield’s book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’m putting it on my list!

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Hey Danny

It is indeed a small blogosphere! Nice to see you here Sir!

I can’t recommend Pressfield’s book highly enough – it’s one of those rare books that you can re-read at periodic intervals and get different levels of insight each time as you grow as a writer and a person.

Paul

PS to Marcus – surely the tick box should say’ Check if you think Wolves Are Cool?’ :)

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Danny @ Firepole Marketing March 5, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Okay, I’m sold – it is now in my Amazon shopping cart! :)

Wolves, huh? What about tigers and bears? Oh my! :D

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Dave Pipitone March 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Great post, Paul!

Wow, you are delivering a lot of content with an monthly 50+ page e-zine to your readers for only $97 a year. I’ve had monthly subscriptions to IM “gurus” which were much shorter.

Keep up the good worl.

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Tia Peterson March 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I’ve got to admit that the part of this post that stuck out to me the most was that you create a 50 page ezine every week in two days. Holy cow!

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about setting deadlines. I really have a hard time sticking to them. The bad is just not ever bad enough for me to stop procrastinating. I sort of at a loss now for what to do… except, that Pomdoro method or whatever it is called did work, when I would use it. Perhaps it’s time to pick the timer thing back up and get cracking!

Cheers,
Tia

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Hi Tia

It’s not quite as much as it sounds – it’s a music related publication and there is music in it which eats up some space. However there is still a lot of content that goes in it….and the deadline is unbreakable.

I know what you mean about the procrastination – it used to be something that got to me and really ate me up. But from experience I can tell you that if there are paid subscribers waiting for what they paid for, they’ll be emailing pretty quickly if the ezine is late. So the deadline really helps – the old enemy 9the ego) just slides right out of the way and let’s me sit down and get cracking on content creation.

My advice is to read about different content creators that you admire – whether they are bloggers, or journalists, or even fiction writers – and see if you can find a ‘model’ that resonates with you. Then give it a try – and if it works then you can try tweaking it and making it better.

If it doesn’t, move onto a different model and try that. Everyone is different. I think I remember reading in Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk that he dictated the book into a digital recorder because he ‘hates’ writing, and hired an editor to transcribe it and knock it into shape.

There are a million ways to get the content done. Your job is to find YOUR way.

HTH.

paul

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Tia Peterson March 5, 2011 at 6:55 pm

Thanks, Paul.

Something a former mentor used to say to me and to others was to remove the distractions. I know it sounds crazy but my three year old is a big distraction. Now, can I remove him? Not quite, but I can structure our days better so that I am more productive at certain times. I’m learning!

I could commit to a post schedule, too. I saw that Jay Baer of Convince & Convert does that – he specifies when the newsletter is going to come out (3x2x1). I bet if I did that, I’d stay on track.

Thanks for the tips!

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 3:26 am

Tia

I’ve got an 8 year old and a 5 year old – and for them it’s the other way around, they want to remove me! Sometimes when they’re watching the TV or playing lego the clickety clack of my keyboard really annoys the c**p out of them. (I type at around 100WPM – and my remote keyboard is pretty old and noisy!).

Committing to a post schedule is a good way of creating a deadline – make it a challenge with your audience so that if you miss a schedule you give something to your audience. Or do something for them. That way it makes breaking the deadline mean something to you.

HTH

paul

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Jon March 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm

A lot of familiar faces here today :) Tia, best of luck getting things done!

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Tia Peterson March 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Thanks, Jon! I am getting around. The weekends are great for me in terms of blog reading!

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hey Dave

Nope, you misunderstood. It’s a WEEKLY 50+ page ezine to my readers for only $97 a year. Plus they get a High Def video lesson to download as well!

Thanks for the comment! See you around.

Paul

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Dave Pipitone March 5, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Weekly! Sorry I misread that – you’re offering a LOT of value for that price.

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paul wolfe March 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Yep – maybe it’s time I put the price up! LOL.

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Tia Peterson March 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I’d say so. Increase the price! :)

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Greg Lee March 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Hey Paul,

Can you give us some details of the tools and structure you use to generate a 50 page weekly ezine? I’d love to hear what helps you to be so productive besides sheer repetition.

thanks,

Grrreg!

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Danny @ Firepole Marketing March 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I’m pretty curious about that myself, too… writing 50 pages a week isn’t easy, but it isn’t hard, either. Writing 50 pages of GOOD content… now that’s a real challenge!

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 3:37 am

@Greg and @Danny – that’s a mighty good question.

OK here’s a quick answer that should help.

Firstly, the Ezine is split down into 5 distinct sections. One section is a transcription of a bass line (so it’s mostly music). One section is a beginner’s lesson on how to play the bass line to a song. There are two Tutorial columns – these are weekly columns that carry on sequentially. And there is a book review.

Each section has its own internal structure. So for example the Book Review is nearly always structured with these sub headings:

1) What’s The Book About?
2) What’s Good About The Book?
3) What’s Not So Good About The Book?
4) How Is The Book Presented?
5) How Could The Book Be Better?
6) Summary and a Rating

This internal structure for each column makes each column much easier to write – because no thought is needed on how to present the information for this week, that’s already been worked out.

The benefits of each column having their own internal structure is that no creative energy – or more importantly Time – is expended on creating it. Literally I can sit down at 9.30 AM on Thursday and start creating content that will end up in the ezine.

That’s probably one of the biggest time savers.

Also I always make sure I know what I’m going to cover for every section of the Ezine before I start writing. (For the tutorial columns this is done by having a summary at the end of every column saying what’s going to be covered in the following week). Again this makes sure no creative energy or time is lost working out what the content is going to be.

And it’s the same with the songs – I always try and know what I’m going to transcribe and cover a few weeks in advance. (Usually this is done by tying in with other things I have going on – or by using my Reader generated list of requests).

Another thing I do – and following on with the same mindset – is that I make sure that each column has its own template in Adobe InDesign. All I have to do is enter the Ezine number and the date on the page footer and then I can start creating the content.

I think those are the main points to answer your questions…feel free to ask more if there’s somethign I’ve not covered!

Paul

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Danny @ Firepole Marketing March 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

That’s really useful, and it makes sense – if all the thinking and planning is already done, then you’ve really got to just fill in the blanks with what you already know that you want to say… that makes it a lot easier! Thanks for sharing your process with us, Paul!

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 10:33 am

You’re welcome Danny.

I think the important takeaway is how ‘liberating’ having a deep seated structure can be. It took me probably the best part of 9 months to work out how this helped….and I hadn’t realized until I articulated it to answer yours and Greg’s question. Which was a great question.

I’ll have to turn this into a post at some stage!

Paul

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Greg Lee March 6, 2011 at 10:40 am

How about a short report?

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Michael Martine March 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Paul, I have to hand it to you, man. When I read “comes up with brilliant ideas in the middle of writing” I laughed because that is so true. But hey, that’s what Evernote is for: a quick jot and then back to business.

I can’t remember who said it but one of my favorite sayings is “Real writers write. People who want to be writers get writer’s block.”

And here’s another: Kids at the beach do not suffer from “sand castle block.”

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 3:42 am

Hey Michael

Good to see you here!

And yes that ‘comes up with brilliant ideas in the middle of writing’ is one of the favourite tricks of Resistance! And the habit of quickly recording that idea on Evernote or a scrap of paper by the computer or a word processor document is something that we all need to cultivate!

And I’d amend your favourite saying to this: People who want to have written get writer’s block. They want the kudos or the benefits from having written, but don’t want to put in time at the coal face. I think it was this kind of people who invented writer’s block in the first place! And made it fashionable!

I know that my kids would tell you that I get Sand Castle Block when we’re down at the beach. (Dad! Come and make a sand castle. Put your laptop down! LOL :) )

Paul

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Robert Dempsey March 6, 2011 at 8:20 am

Great post Paul. This is how I got my homework done pretty much all my life. It had to be done, I didn’t want to do it, but it was always done on time. Happy days!

Having a posting schedule helps me a ton, and as my blogs get popular people do expect the posts to come as usual. Until that happened I was sure to blog a number of weeks in advance. I would pull from my list of topics, write a ton, schedule them up, and go off on my merry way.

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

Ha ha!

Thinking back, that’s exactly how I used to do my homework or prepare for exams – I never connected the two! A posting schedule is definitely a good thing – especially if there are people who will hold you accountable if you miss posting.

Paul

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Jason from Skyward March 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

Paul,
I love reading and writing about the ego and how it influences our lives, so I found your application to blogging intriguing…..especially considering you’ve turned the ego to our advantage. That’s definitely a first for me.

Great post my friend!

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 10:31 am

Hey Jason

Thanks for the comment.

Yep – it’s good to turn the tables on our egos and get them to play along with us – otherwise we spend so much time in the cycle of letting resistance getting the upper hand, not writing, and then being depressed because we’re not writing. It’s a strategy that can work really well – it definitely works for me!

Paul

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Crystal March 6, 2011 at 10:50 am

Now I know why I work so much better with a deadline! Now I just need to use this to my advantage, as you suggest. Thanks! Great post and also great blog over at OneSpoonAtATime:)

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

Hey Crystal

Thanks for the comment. It works differently for different people, so it’s something you need to test and try out and tweak depending on the results. But it works like a charm for me – it’s how I schedule a lot of my content creation these days.

Paul

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Joe D. March 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Hi Paul—
Excellent post, the suggestion to create deadlines is just what I need to improve upon my wildly erractic posting sched. The idea of always re-writing and editing is spot on with my “bad” posting habits.

I have three or four nearly completed drafts that could easily go out this month, if I only stop fussing over them. Reading about myself and my habits in your post will increase my sense of urgency.

You have a great blog as well. Always thanks to Marcus for sharing quality content.

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Hey Joe

Thanks for leaving a comment – and thanks for the kind words about my blog. (Also thanks to Crystal for HER words too!).

The remarks you make about constant editing of posts is a classic sign of resistance. (I wrote about it on my blog – The Curse of Self editing). Here’s a quick suggestion – see if you can find two or three ‘editing and posting’ buddies who you send a post too prior to publication and ask them if it needs any more edits or if you can publish it.

If they say publish – then just load it into Wordpress, set the publication date, and move onto the next one.

HTH.

paul

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Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker March 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I love deadlines.

I made the commitment to my readers they would receive twice-weekly posts. On the days I feel too tired to write, I remember my commitment, and by do so, find the energy to get back after it.

Alex

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paul wolfe March 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Commitments to your readers are highly important. Every time you let them down you put a dent in your credibility. What’s the cliche: It can take 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to lost it. It’s a version of that – if you tell people to expect something at a certain time, then you lose something if you don’t deliver. If you keep failing to deliver then there will come a point – maybe a ‘Gladwell’ style Tipping Point – where you’ll start to lose part of your audience.

In those cases the deadline serves two purposes – not only does it help you overcome resistance to do the writing in the first place, but it also helps you deliver a consistent message to your audience. Which actually increases the trust factor over time.

Because just as letting them down creates a ‘dent’ in your credibility, the constant meeting of your deadlines encourages your audience that you are a guy that delivers. That’s a GREAT thing to build up.

Thanks for stopping by!

Paul

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Neil Smith@Life Insurance New Zealand March 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm

@Greg. Great question! Well put.
“Can you give us some details of the tools and structure you use to generate a 50 page weekly ezine? I’d love to hear what helps you to be so productive besides sheer repetition.”

I’ll need to print this whole thing to PDF to digest all the juicy info! What a post! Great stuff indeed. I haven’t yet got anything to add, so I’ll sign off.

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 2:26 am

Hey Neil

Cool to see you here! Thanks for leaving a comment.

What’s really interesting is that in answering Greg and Danny’s questions I had to really sit back and think about the processes that I use. And I hadn’t realized that I’d build a system into the production of that ezine.

Now that i’m consciously aware of it I can tweak it and try and make it more efficient. If this was the only benefit I got from this Guest Post it would be worth it a hundred times over. But it’s been a highly positive experience so far on many levels.

Paul

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Jk Allen March 7, 2011 at 12:59 am

Paul – I’m not a writer…well, I write, but I wouldn’t say that writing is one of my best skills, but I do want to be come greatly skilled in this area.

I surely get touched with resistance so I find this article to be particularly special and somewhat tailored for me. I promise (to myself) to practice the tactic you shared of setting deadlines…I want to turn the tables on my ego!

Thank you so much for the highly detailed post Paul. Also, congrat on your Ezine… Sounds like a great value to your subscribers! P.S. your gravatar is cool – displaying the base! Thank you Paul

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 2:35 am

JK

You may not call yourself a writer – but I’m guessing there are plenty of others here that would! I’ve been aware of you because of the comments you leave here – as I’m sure are many others. And there are some great posts on your website too – which reminds me that I need to get over there and join the conversation! You’ll see me there this week, I promise!

Everyone gets affected by resistance – from you and I to Stephen King. The productive writer becomes aware of resistance and develops strategies to kick resistance in the butt.

This line: “well, I write, but I wouldn’t say that writing is one of my best skills, but I do want to be come greatly skilled in this area.” The desire to improve in an area is the first pre-requisite in getting better at something. For you – and anyone who thinks they can’t write because they’re not ‘talented’ – my take on this is that there’s no such thing as natural inborn talent. There’s only hard work over time combined with great teaching.

So if you truly want to learn to write better then be prepared to put in the time at the coal face, and try and find the best teacher you can.

Paul

PS the picture is from my bass website, it was the only picture I had to hand on my desktop when I needed to connect my name to an avatar. So I grabbed it, fully intending it to replace it with a more normal picture. But I’ve left it as people are starting to associate it with me – plus it gives me a point of difference. I’m the bass guitar playing dude….

Keep on keeping on, and thanks for stopping by.

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Daniel M. Wood March 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

Hi Paul,

Writers block is a problem for many. Especially those of us who don’t consider ourselves writers, but still work with it.

Your blog has really helped many learn to break through that probelm.
Deadlines really helped. Most people are never as productive as the times they have a pressing deadline coming up tomorrow and they haven’t even started on the project.

Using this capability can help us become much more productive in the future.

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 10:35 am

Hey Daniel

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

You raised some interesting points. The first one is this” those of us who don’t consider ourselves writers, but still work with it.”

Here’s my definition of a writer: someone who writes. Period.
Here’s my definition of a professional writer: someone who writes regularly. Preferably daily.

Back in the day when I wrote fiction and screenplays I read a gazillion interviews with writers and scriptwriters – and the number of writers that we all would think of as great writers who thought their work was crappy is unbelievable.

Everyone has self doubts. The amateur writer lets those self doubts stop him from writing (and says he has writer’s block). The professional writes anyway. Because he knows that his primary activity is to get the words written.

Once they’re written they can be edited.

So I truly believe everyone who writes is a writer. (That doesn’t mean of course that everyone who writes is a GOOD writer….that’s for another day though).

There are many, many ways you can beat resistance and avoid writer’s block. A creative use of a deadline is a great one – especially if missing the deadline actually means something. Although the Ego hates you to write, it hates even more for you to get 50 emails or more berating you for being late and having to apologize to everyone who emailed you.

That’s the important tip with using a deadline – make it mean something.

And if you can make being productive a habit you’ll find that the Ego gets used to it, and it gets easier to do. So you get to be more productive. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Paul

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John Sherry March 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Great thoughts Paul. I make my deadline a pleasure line in effect. I remind myself on an ongoing basis that if I don’t hit the mark then I don’t get the fun that comes wth it. If work gets missed so too do the rewards so I imagine myself on the beach or meeting friends at a favourite restaurant. Making it worthwhile to aim for.They say you either move towards something or away from something else and I’m always hot footing it to good times and pat on the back pleasures in my mind. That’s sure to keep my on track every time. Corking post Paul, I’d take more spoonfulls of this stuff!

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Hey John

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

The method you’ve sketched out in your comment can also work – being honest I can tell you that your method probably wouldn’t work for me, because I am well known for my procrastination.

But here’s the thing – that doesn’t make your method wrong. one of the things I’m just starting to talk about in various places (mostly in a private forum at the moment as I gain clarity in my thinking) is that everyone has to find the way that works for them.

At the end of the day what you have to do is find people who are like you, try the methods that work for them. If they work for you, then tweak them until they are optomized…then move on.

I wanted to share my experience in this post because it works really well for me. One of my Subscribers compiled an Index of everything I’ve done – and I’ve published over 4000 pages with this Ezine since September 3rd 2009. If you had predicted that on September 2nd I would have laughed at you. (Oh, you can add in around 65 video tutorials as well, ranging in length from 15 minutes to 45 minutes).

If your way is working, tweak it until it’s optimized. But don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Thanks again.

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Stuart March 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Boom Paul! What a great read! If this is your first guest post, which I may or may not have read wrong, then what a way to start!

I know a few things about forcing yourself to write when you know you have to hand the finished work over by 4pm, but your brain is stubbornly refusing to help you out. It screams “No, I don’t care about your stupid deadlines, I wanna chill out and watch dodgy YouTube videos!”. Well, your article goes some way to solving that problem.

See, your writing has got me interested now, so I’m gonna have to head over to your site and see what all the fuss is about ;-)

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Hey Stuart

Thanks for stopping by. I’ve seen your picture around the Sales Lion Comments section – and on other blogs too. Haven’t managed to stop by at your place yet, guess I’m gonna have to change that.

You read right – this is indeed my first guest post – and it’s been a great experience so far (thanks again Marcus).

I’m glad my writing has intrigued you – that’s the kind of response that everyone who writes wants to elicit in a reader. So cool – and please head over to One Spoon any time you want and check it out.

I’ll either see you there – or over at yours!

paul

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Harriet March 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Thanks for the advice you’ve given here. I often find that writing to deadlines makes my writing technique get worse than it already is, the things you’ve wirtten here are really useful.

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Harriet

There’s a subtle distinction to be made between writing to a deadline, and using a deadline to overcome resistance. I’ve found from experience I need approximately two working days to get my ezine written – on those weeks where i have nothing on at all on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I get barely nothing done on the ezine.

The minute Thursday comes around, it’s sleeves rolled up time and get to work. And the resistance vanishes.

I think that if I had to produce a complete issue in one day – even a 15 or 16 hour day – the tension induced by the stress would inhibit the production of doing the best work that I can. So I understand what you’re saying.

I think there are several areas that will help:

1) Know what you need to create before you sit down
2) Have a structure in mind (as Neil points out below)
3) Having enough time to produce the work to a reasonable standard, but not too little time as that will induce tension. Tension is deadly.
4) For me, an unshakeable confidence that i can do it. Based on a solid track record of doing it. That’s something that will come in time – and is very reassuring!

Thanks for the comment.

Paul

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Neil Smith@Life Insurance New Zealand March 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm

“I often find that writing to deadlines makes my writing technique get worse than it already is,” Harriet, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Having a structure for your writing, or a “fil in the blanks” approach to writing is going to help a lot when you have a dead line. I produce a small piece every week for an offline use, and I use a structure, it is teh same strucutre every week.

Now I need to transfer that to my blog and regular emails.

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paul wolfe March 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Neil

One of the most liberating moments I had when I wrote fiction was discovering Joseph Campbell’s paradigm of the Hero’s Journey (via Chris Vogler’s great book). I had a similar epiphany with article writing/blog posting when I took a course on this with a guy who is my mentor (Sean D’Souza).

I only truly realized in one of the answers above (from Greg and Danny) that this structure has permeated everything I do – from articles and blog posts, to videos for my Bass website, to lessons, and even to the Webinar series I start in a couple of days time.

Having that structure in place has been one of the best pieces of learnings I’ve picked up in the last couple of years or so.

Thanks for the comment!

paul

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rob white March 8, 2011 at 9:31 am

Hi Paul,
Thanks for sharing this great resource… this is one of my favorites to: “coming up with another, and potentially more brilliant, idea in the middle of your writing.” We’ve all heard the slogan, “just do it!” The problem with that is it doesn’t address the ego that is trying to keep you right where you are. By becoming curious about the recurring resistance, we become conscious of the mechanism that has us stuck – it’s nothing more than a habitual thought-voice. A deadline is a perfect way to bypass those voices. Once we recognize procrastination as nothing more than a habitual thought-voice, we can turn the volume down. It may take practice, but it is achievable.

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paul wolfe March 8, 2011 at 10:35 am

Hey Rob

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

The really important takeaway on this one is to recognize that IT HAPPENS, and make a note of it somewhere else and then return immediately to what we were doing. That way we get both the benefit of the new idea, and the benefit of teaching the Ego that we’re not going to be sidetracked AND the discipline of completing what we’ve started.

Michael (Martine) above said he uses Evernote for this. I use either word, or scrawl a mind map on a piece of A3 paper. (My kids try and colour these in when I’m not looking – the little horrors :) ) Doesn’t matter how you capture that idea, have something ready to do it, capture the idea, then move on.

Paul

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Davina K. Brewer March 8, 2011 at 10:08 am

Paul, I’m most guilty of #4 and new ideas creeping into my head before I’ve finished with the old ones, so my head just goes into too many directions. That’s followed by the taunts of #2 doubting if this post is worthy of a “publish” click. I think it’s good to revise and edit to make sure something is readable, but yes the EGO can take that too far.

I have to admit: deadlines work. I’ve set an unannounced, informal yet committed goal of at least 2 blog posts a week, usually Monday and Thursday. I’ve stuck to it, with a few guest posts on other blogs too. I do what I have to, make the time to get it done. Hadn’t considered the penalty of failure I’d charge myself, probably have to skip the nice wine until I got it done. ;-) FWIW.

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paul wolfe March 8, 2011 at 10:37 am

Hey Davina

Number 4 is a doozy! Happens to me all the time. I learned the hard way not to chase it though – too disruptive.

Setting a penalty for failure is one of the things that persuades the Ego onto our side. Remember one of the ego’s functions is as a self defence mechanism – if it perceives NOT writing as potentially harmful, it will bust a gut to get you writing. It’s a great way to turn the tables!

Thanks for dropping by.

paul

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Murray March 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Paul, I really enjoyed the article :)

I think that we, bloggers/writers/creatives, don’t put enough pressure on ourselves nor add enough rewards for our writing. We see the immediate benefit from social media and comments but when we add that little bit of value to each piece of writing we really start to get down to it.

I gave myself a deadline to write 10 PLR packs for my business in a month. It was a TON of writing and by the end of it I felt burnt out but I kept at it because I knew that the longer I delayed releasing the packs that it would be money left on the table.

Having that monetary value over your head is like a carrot on a stick. Just gotta get over it all and jump right into writing even if you don’t save your work because once the flow starts, you keep going.

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paul wolfe March 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Hey Murray

The only way to get the flow is to sit down and start – you’ll be surprised (or perhaps not !) how regular the flow sits if you only sit down and write on a regular basis.

The unbreakable deadline is what gets you to the writing chair in the first place – that’s its first purpose. Then the potential all round ‘badness’ that happens if you fail to meet your deadline is what persuades the ego that NOT WRITING is going to have worse percussions than writing. And it slides right out of the way – and you become amazingly productive.

Done right, it works like a charm!

Thanks for stopping by!

Paul

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Dan Black March 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Great post. I have never used deadlines to writing. I make it a point to write everyday and some times that means 20 minutes or 2 hours. Most days I’m able to write a good blog post and other days I might write 2-3 and have a couple more that are just thoughts/notes. I think the main thing is to find what works for you and be consistent and that might mean setting deadlines.

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Michael @ Spanx for Men December 14, 2011 at 6:33 am

This is very true. I have never worked with deadlines or have a clear idea of action steps.

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paul wolfe March 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Hey Dan

I agree that everyone needs to find a system that works for them. Writing everyday is great by the way – it’s something I’m working on right now – although I’m reasonably prolific, I want to be REALLY prolific! (lol)

Thanks for stopping by.

paul

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Dan Black March 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm

It is a hard discipline to have but its rewarding. Looking forward to checking out your blog. Have a great day.

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paul wolfe March 10, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Hey Dan

Totally agree. Every day you write is a day you come closer to the truth (as you see it). Writing acts as a weird kind of therapy when you do it everyday – it’s good for the soul!

have a great day too.

paul

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Timo Kiander March 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm

This is great stuff!

Making yourself accountable is a really strong way to push your limits.

I have noticed that if I set a deadline with myself, I may not be able to keep it. However, when making it public, that’s a different story :)

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paul wolfe March 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Hey Timo

Making it public is a great way of creating a deadline that’s got accountability – especially if you’ve got a decent sized tribe.

Thanks for the comment.

Paul

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Latha December 18, 2011 at 8:29 am

Making myself accountable … I think this is a trigger for me.. I HATE it if anyone says something like I did not deliver..
I need to try this as well.

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Christina Crowe March 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Hi Paul,

First, I must say – well done! I’m tremendously impressed with both guest posts on Blogging Bookshelf and The Sales Lion.

I think that your advice to create deadlines that you CAN’T miss is dead-on! I’ve tried creating deadlines a few times before when planning goals. But, the thing is, there were no real consequences if I ever missed a deadline, so often times I would.

Then I joined Stickk. Stickk is a free online goal tracking program (if you don’t miss your goals) where basically you have to commit to your goals. And, by commit, I mean you have to throw money on the table; if you don’t follow through with your goals, you’ll owe a certain amount of money (determined when you created the goal) to either an enemy, friend, charity, or an organization (that you really hate) of your choosing. Owing money to an enemy or an organization that you abhor are often recommended for best affects, since the idea is that you’ll be less likely to not follow through (since you’ll be basically paying your enemy if you don’t).

As you can probably imagine, Stickk does wonders for motivational purposes, and it’s another way to create deadlines that you have to stick to, or else something really bad would happen (you’ll lose money).

Once again, I loved the guest post Paul! And wow, 45 to 65 pages every Friday? That’s insane! I admire you for just following through with that goal for the past 17 months!

Keep up the awesome work,

Christina

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Neil Smith@Life Insurance New Zealand March 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Christina you wrote “Once again, I loved the guest post Paul! And wow, 45 to 65 pages every Friday? That’s insane! ”

You’re possibly right. But Bethoven was considered mad. (Unlike Paul, he was slightly eccentric). And the university lecturer who predicted the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, 18 years before hand, was certainly considered mad. But the thing is, within 30 minutes of the “Big One” hitting Tokyo in 1923, he was considered a hero!

So we definitely need to do some “mad” things to achieve some heroic efforts. It’s just such a pity we have to suffer so much in the process of getting to being a hero.

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Michael @Blast4Traffic July 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

This is an incredible post friends. I love the way Paul write and this is going to enhance his blogging popularity. Good works.

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Latha December 18, 2011 at 8:26 am

Paul, I feel like you have read my thoughts.. Especially the section entitled (“How Does Resistance to Writing Manifest Itself?”)… Ha, ha.. thats all me.
I am so glad you shared this… I am actually relived that everyone might be feeling the same resistance as me..
Now, I can stop beating myself up and sctually make an effort..

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