Monday, July 05, 2010

What's your ticking clock?

Author Camy Tang is teaching an online class I’m in about the ticking clock. She says, “A deadline is a ticking clock, time pressure put on a character.” Not all stories need them. But I happen to have one in the book I’m writing and it helps push my MC towards her external goal. It heightens the tension and makes the reader wonder if she’ll get what she needs in time.

So that makes me think about my writing journey and my own ticking clock. Have I created one for myself or am I going with the flow?

I’m older than someone getting fresh out of college with a journalism degree and excited to put their newfound knowledge to work in the writing field.

I’ve been working hard at this craft for five years. I’ve planned some hard goals about what I want to reach in this field and that includes at least one complete book on a bookstore shelf.

Is my age my ticking clock? Ok. So I'm not so young anymore. I own a mirror.

Or is it my free time while I’m job hunting? I write all day trying to get my goals accomplished before I get another job and my time is limited. Besides that, my husband graduates in April and might be around days again.

Or is my writing dream my ticking clock where I fear I’ll get frustrated and watch it fade and give up?

What’s your ticking clock? Or do you even have one when it comes to writing?

38 comments:

Heather Sunseri said...

I had originally set a deadline for myself, and it put an unbelievable amount of pressure on me. I realize now that while I don't have the pressure of enforced deadlines, I needed to take my time, learn the craft and make my story shine. There will be a time (I hope) when I have to rush it a little more, but for now I want to make sure I learn the process that makes my writing mine. Does that make sense?

Diane said...

I think I need to instill a ticking clock for myself. I am finding that I am horrible with persistence...:O)

Lin Floyd said...

good post, it's interesting when you are retired and really throughout your life there is always that ticking clock of when you could depart this life. My dad died when he was 29 killed in an accident so we never know how much time we have left. I turn 70 next week so I'm getting up there. Still have many projects in mind without deadlines so need to make my own pressures. Have a completed article that I'd like to get published too. Thanks for some food for thought.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Just like how I mentioned for Noble I don't have one. Goal setter, yes. Tapping my watch...no.

Love the class so far!!!
~ Wendy

Lynda Young said...

I feel like I've wasted so much time that I am my own ticking clock. I don't want to waste time anymore. I want to write.

Shirl said...

Oh, Hon, you're not old! ~I'm~ old! And age would be my ticking clock. Writing is a more recent dream. I don't know that I've actually set a goal in it. I want to write books, or at least one good book. I've self-published a couple, but I don't promote them at all. I was just thrilled that I actually put together a book! This morning, you've made me realize that I don't really have any goals anymore. I wonder...did I give up or did I change and the old dreams don't fit anymore? I don't know...

But you'll make it, Dear! You'll make it. Relax and enjoy the process.

kathy taylor said...

Decades ago- just out of undergrad, I posted a large bumper sticker on my teacher's cart: Deadlines amuse me. They didn't, though, and I would lie awake at night when the school newspaper deadline was close at hand. While I was living the Type A Personality life, illness came. My world lost it's deadlines, and now things flow, sputter, or come to dead ends. I'm more concerned about the journey than the arrival.

Linda said...

I have a self-imposed ticking clock in the way of goals I set for myself. That said, if I don't meet a certain goal I don't beat myself up about it, just try to carry on with the next one.

Jessica Nelson said...

I personally don't give myself much of a ticking clock when it comes to writing. I hope to spend at least an hour on it a day, but that's not always possible. I feel like someday I'll have that tick-tock to deal with and I'd rather take things easy right now when I can, if that makes sense. :-)
The downside of that is laziness and not being as professional as I should.
I loved your line about you owning a mirror! Too funny.

BECKY said...

Oh, I so much agree with Heather's comment! Terri, remember when I had the "ticking clock" widget on my blog? My self-imposed deadline to finish my book? It did the same to me! I was a nervous wreck, watching that thing every time I got on my blog!! All the while knowing I would never have my book finished "in time". I chose, too, to take the pressure off myself. I want my book to be fabulous, not just finished!!

Heidi Willis said...

I love that idea for characters! I hadn't thought about that but in my current WIP my character has been given two weeks to make a decision or lose her job, and so the pressure to make life changing choices pushes her. I'm not sure it makes the book move forward better, but it makes her make poor choices out of desperation.

As for myself, I like to remind myself that there are plenty of authors that never made it until very late in life (even in their 80s when their first book published). I try to remind myself that God's timing is always more perfect than my own.

Not that that always works, but I try. :)

Lydia Kang said...

Age is my ticking clock. And it is so darned loud!!! I wish I'd gotten started writing at an earlier age, in my twenties or even early thirties. But honestly, I think I was a better writer coming into the craft because of my life experience and recent poetry writing. So maybe I'd have had to write for a decade to get to where i am now anyway!

Susan said...

No Terri. I just live in the moment. I don't think of how much time I have left to write (or live). Each moment is precious. Every moment spent writing is joyous. So that's it for me. Susan

T. Anne said...

I think I do but God knows the truth. He is far more patient than I can ever hope to be and I know all good things in His time! I can't wait! And yes, see you in class!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I used to set goals and there's always been this internal pressure in me to be published by a certain age (which I just passed), but I'm realizing more and more that it hasn't helped me one bit. Setting writing goals is one thing, but setting larger goals about when I should be published or what should be published is me trying to control something that isn't mine to control. God knows this path and knows the points which it diverts or cumulates toward that larger goal.

Karen Lange said...

Wow, good question. In some ways, my ticking clock is the pressure I put on myself to produce something of value. Other ones are deadlines and perceived expectations. I need to ponder and pray about this; thanks for the food for thought!
Blessings,
Karen
P.S. You're not old:)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Great question, Terri. And one that interests me, since you and I are the same age.

I'm often stared down by the fear that I won't live long enough to accomplish my writing goals, which are to publish at least one book, have my column syndicated, and to speak at several writers conferences. So.

I must try, even if Jesus returns or I die before these goals are born. If I make just one star shine brighter in the process of trying to shine the moon, I'll be happy.

Love you, dear one,
Jen

Sally said...

I put a clock on my last project. I had readers in place waiting for each chapter. I posted a new chapter every Friday. It worked very well for me. Now I'm in the editing and need to re-instate the time clock because I'm not moving nearly as quickly as I could.

Susan R. Mills said...

I set a deadline for myself, but I didn't work well with the stress. I want to take as much time as needed to write the best novel I possibly can. Age, smage. Who cares how old you are?

sarah said...

Terri...never give up on your dreams...writing is your passion...I think He's getting you ready...Hey...and think about Abraham and Sarah...they found their dream in their late 90's... ☺

Jill Domschot aka Arabella said...

My whole life is a ticking clock! Well, so is everybody's. I always have deadlines for finishing projects, too. Sometimes I meet them and sometimes I don't. Schedules keep me sane, though. I wish I could make a deadline for publishing. Wouldn't that be great?

Saumya said...

I set the deadline for August 1, before I return to medical school! Otherwise, I could literally put this off and take my time forever!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Terri..though I have never put a clock on my writing projects, for some strange reason I have done it for my current WIP(MG fantasy Fiction).I have decided to finish it by my birthday by the end of the month.

patti said...

LOL. Capture on paper the stories God gives me b/f the gray matter ceases working.
I like what Susan said!

Blessings, Terri, for a great class. Camy is a wonderful teacher.

Janet Johnson said...

I've never thought about a deadline for my writing interest. I'm afraid I'll still be writing at 90 even if I've never gotten published. But, oh, that sounds sad.

Maybe I should get a ticking clock . . .

Sassy Granny ... said...

I actually do my utmost best to avoid clocks. For me, they instill pressure & stress to a situation; often unnecessarily so. And if they're absolutely necessary, I do my other utmost best to move in their direction hours or days ahead of an alarm going off.

I much prefer living intentionally, regardless of the time, and knowing that everything - ultimately - works to my benefit. That means I plan my work, and work my plan; allowing for interruptions and detours (every good plan has them).

Good stuff to ponder!

KelliGirl said...

Good thoughts! I've wondered about my ticking clock as I'm definitely in a go with the flow mode right now. Not sure if that's where I should be, though. Hmm, Terri you always challenge me and get me thinking.

Sending you a sweaty 100 degree Phila. hug! :-)
Kelli

Jolene said...

Sometimes timing works and sometimes it doesn't. I think that sometimes I need to set a limit for myself or a goal and it's helpful. When it stops being helpful? I start to ignore the clock.
Right now writing feels like a luxury and I hope it always does.

Kara said...

I had a ticking clock, but it grew so loud that I had to smash it:)
I try to set goals and stick to them, but if life happens to get in the way I try to just regroup and go on. I've learned the last thing I need is to put more pressure on myself because it causes me to just shut down:)

Janet said...

I think of my age as my ticking clock. I wish I had started writing sooner. I want to see my stories published and on the bookshelf and in the hands of children. The publishing business is so slow. I have signed a contract, but it's not scheduled to be out until Spring 2010.

WritingNut said...

I think age and time itself is my ticking clock. I keep worrying that I am going to run out of time and soon it will be too late!

Jen said...

Great post! I don't necessarily have a clock, right now I'm just enjoying the moment. I would say when that enjoyment leaves that's when the clock stops ticking.

Warren Baldwin said...

My ticking clock - the very real possibility that I'll lose my idea when I get around to developing it, opr that I'll never get around to developing it.

Jody Hedlund said...

I love the plot idea of ticking clocks! They really make for a suspenseful read! And I think it's good for us to give ourselves goals and deadlines too--they keep us on task and motivated--at least they do me! :-)

Melissa Marsh said...

Hmm. I don't know that I have a ticking clock because, simply put, I will keep writing whether I get published or not. I guess there are times, though, that I fear I won't be able to write as many books as I want to before it's my time to meet the Lord. :-)

Deb Shucka said...

Great question. I hear and feel the clock ticking all the time. Both my age (too close to 60) and the fact that I need to make money while pursuing this elusive dream of creating a story that matters enough to find its way onto book shelves and into hearts. Most days I manage to refuse to listen, but it still ticks away.

Leslie said...

My ticking clock is my age. I just started graduate school at 45. I should be done by 47, but I keep wondering if I'll have the time to do the work that I want to do before I'm too old! Great post!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

My ticking clock was crazy in retrospect but ultimately worked out.

I stopped teaching at the end of the 2009 school year with no writing prospects other than four mid-grade manuscripts, seven picture book manuscripts, and a novel-excerpt win at a local writing conference. At that point, I'd been writing for eleven years. I'd saved enough money to try at writing full time for a year.

I signed with an agent in October and sold a novel in March.