Why Intuitive Writing and Deadlines Don’t Go Together
About once a month, I’ll get an email from a reader who is struggling with writing and meeting deadlines. Usually, they’ve discovered my Intuitive Writing course and they’re extremely interested in learning how to connect more deeply with their intuition to feed their creative process. They like the way I describe how they can shift their relationship with writing from stress and pressure to adventure, fun, and ease. The only problem is, they don’t quite see how they can fit that in with their current writing life needs, which involve a lot of deadlines.
Much of the time these types of writers are screenplay writers who need to turn in projects by a certain date, and also need their scripts to meet a certain set of criteria. Sometimes they are freelance writers who are writing articles on topics assigned to them by a company or nonprofit. Occasionally, I even hear from ghostwriters who are writing something that is supposed to be in someone else’s voice, and they also have a firm deadline on when the work needs to be finished.
Nearly all of these writers who email me are tired, frustrated, and feeling defeated with their writing process. They tell me they feel blocked or stuck, and they’re just pushing themselves through the writing because they know there is a deadline and they have to get it done. But every time they sit down to work on the project, they feel like they would rather be anywhere else.
This is when they ask me how they can use Intuitive Writing in their process to make things better. They’ve noticed that in my videos and articles about Intuitive Writing I say that it’s a slow process, and that it’s a process in which the writer gives up control. They also remember that I’ve said that the characters should take the lead, and that the writer should be prepared to devote time to daydreaming, walking or sitting meditation, and listening to music in order to more deeply connect with the story. They know that the Intuitive Writing process sometimes requires writers to back off the project altogether, and to wait for the next piece of the story to ripen organically within them, before they try writing it out onto the page.
How can they incorporate all these elements into their high-pressure, deadline-driven writing life? This is the question that these writers always end their email with, and they almost always sound a bit despairing about it.
The answer that I give these writers is that there is no easy answer. I wish I could say that the calm, reflective, patient, trusting energy of the Intuitive Writing process could be folded into any kind of writing situation in your life, but it can’t. The truth that these writers so often don’t want to look at too closely is the fact that they’re overall unhappy with their writing lives. They love writing screenplays, but they hate having to write them so fast, and they also hate having to change them according to the whim of other people. Or, they’re passionate about the topics they specialize in, but they really don’t like having to churn out articles on demand that meet the strict requirements of whatever company they’re working for at the moment.
These are the real, hard truths that are coming up for these writers, and these are the real, hard reasons that they are emailing me in the first place. They are unhappy with the writing job they have, and their heart, body, and soul have been trying to tell them that — usually in a variety of ways — but they’ve been pushing that information away because it feels too scary to deal with, and it feels terrifying to think about making a change.
But making a change is what needs to happen. If you are working in a writing job and that writing job is kind of making you hate the act of writing, that’s a big red flag that you’re in the wrong place. It’s common for writers to stay in these types of jobs because many writers hold the limiting belief that it’s hard to get paid for being a writer, you should take whatever you can get, and you should also be grateful for whatever is available, because any other writer would kill for the opportunity.
This might have been true in the days before the internet, but the world has changed since then, and changed drastically. There are a bazillion different ways of making a living and earning income as a writer these days — if you don’t stick to the old, outdated model of what it means to have a writing career. The old model says that writers who earn income by writing ONLY write. And yeah, if you try to do it that way, you will always be struggling and having to make do with whatever freelance assignments come your way or whatever company wants to hire you to write their copy. But there’s a whole world of possibility beyond that, if you just expand your thinking of what it means to earn income by writing.
You can write a blog, and sell an online course (that you also write yourself) that teaches more in depth about the topics you cover on your blog. You can write novels, and also work as a coach or an editor to help other people with their novels. You can write memoir and self-publish on Amazon and then also work as a consultant to help other authors through the self-publishing process. There are tons of different paths you can take like this, and not one of them involves you writing in a high-pressure environment where you’re enslaved to meeting the deadlines of other people.
So, the short answer to the question of “can Intuitive Writing work with deadlines?” is no, not at all. But the longer answer is, “Why would you want it to?” Why would you want to reclaim your curiosity, passion, pleasure, excitement and enthusiasm for writing, and then pour all that juicy energy into meeting a deadline for someone else, in an environment where you constantly feel stressed out and smothered with pressure to perform? If you’re a writer, then you have one of the most flexible skillsets on the planet, and there’s no need for you to “take what you can get” and work in a way that feels like it’s wearing you down and making you feel discouraged about the very act of creativity itself.
This is not to say that all deadlines are bad, because obviously they aren’t. Sometimes deadlines work very well for writers who are struggling with procrastination. The key is to tune in to how you feel. These writers who are emailing me asking about how to combine Intuitive Writing with a high-pressure, deadline-driven environment definitely don’t feel good. They feel the opposite. That’s why they’re emailing me. They feel so not good that they’re grasping for answers to a problem that can’t be solved until they take a long hard look at why they’re in a situation that’s causing them to feel awful. If you are in a similar situation as these writers, and the deadline-driven nature of the writing job you’re currently in is making you feel awful, then that’s the issue to be examined, not how to tweak your writing method in the hopes of making that awful situation somewhat palatable.
This is where we return to Intuitive Writing again, and this is also why so many of these writers who are struggling with these problems contact me with questions about it. Because Intuitive Writing is a method that asks you to connect with how you feel, and to take those feelings seriously. It asks you to stop overriding your intuition and to stop ignoring what your heart is trying to tell you. If you commit to working with Intuitive Writing, you deepen your connection with yourself, and you begin to hear your own truth, even if that truth is difficult to act on in your present set of circumstances.
Whether or not deadlines work for you is not the only thing that an Intuitive Writing practice will nudge you to explore. You’ll also need to get real about your writing fears. Why are you so nervous about giving up control? Why does that one character who keeps popping into your consciousness make you feel so uncomfortable? Are you willing to trust that the story within you can be born, without you driving yourself on — and the story — with a whip that you’re constantly cracking over your creative process?
These are hard questions, just as hard as the truth might be about the writing job you’re in that you don’t really like anymore. It’s super uncomfortable to look at yourself in a situation where you’re not happy and ask why you keep staying and putting up with it. But it needs to be done, or you’ll stay forever, and you’ll keep feeling utter dread and resistance every time you sit down to write to meet yet another looming deadline that feels like it’s piling even more stress on you.
Again, the possibilities for writers these days are endless. You do NOT have to stay in a situation that’s not working for you anymore. But you WILL have to resolve to think outside of the box, take a few risks, and allow yourself to experience the feeling of being uncomfortable.
This is how we begin to use Intuitive Writing in writing, and in life. This is how we begin to change.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer, The INFJ Revolution, and the creator of Intuitive Writing, an online video course for INFJ and INFP writers who struggle with traditional writing methods. You can get a free copy of her book on creative marketing for writers by signing up for her newsletter HERE.