The Difference Between a Pro and a Clown: Hit That Deadline

Robert A. Heinlein

“They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.” – Robert A. Heinlein, Born Jul. 7, 1907.

It's about expectation. A professional writer needs to deliver work at the promised time. Deadlines aren't soft targets.

(I was never as good at this as I insist others should be.)

It's about consistency. If you publish regularly, readers know there will be something waiting for them when they look.

(I am still not as good at this as I should be by now.)

It's about process. Even if you don't have a good idea, you still have to produce to meet the above two requirements.

(This one, I am pretty good at.)

Have a helpful strategy or two to get started when you're blocked. Have a template or formula so you know the overall structure you're trying to fill in.

Save snippets and ideas and other inspiring, swipe-able bits somewhere you can have them at hand. A brain vault, kind of.

Because you want to be able to produce when you've set expectations that you will. You want to hit your deadlines, and you want to produce with consistency.

But you'll note – being GOOD is not on the list of requirements.

When you create an expectation, it's more important for you to meet the schedule the reader is anticipating than it is for you to be good.

Mind you, producing good work is excellent when you manage to do so.

But when you fall short, fulfilling the requirements of expectation and consistency will give your audience the safe knowledge that even if you're not at your best on one particular piece, you'll be back again and again, and might hit the mark the next time, and the next.

And you know what? Developing the discipline to deliver the goods on time, every time, with reliable regularity – it will actually MAKE you better over time.

When the mechanics and the foundational work are in place – when the routine is established – it frees the mind so that the creativity can sneak in, surprising even you.

Being “good” takes care of itself. So if you're struggling, stop worrying about being good enough.

Trust me.

Worry about delivering on time. In time. Every time. The line of people waiting for your next thing will get longer and longer, even if they have to wait a little while for something amazing.

Decent is acceptable when it hits expectations.

Or do you think your precious literary art cannot be tied to a timeline? Do you feel that creating something special is more important that setting and meeting expectations of consistency?

If yes, perhaps you should write novels instead of copy.

8 thoughts on “The Difference Between a Pro and a Clown: Hit That Deadline”

  1. Steven Arthur

    Today’s message was very helpful. I believed that good things were worth waiting for. Your insights have turned my mindset 180*. I’ll be ruminating on this for the rest of the day (and possibly longer!).
    Thanks Colin.

  2. "When you create an expectation, it's more important for you to meet the schedule the reader is anticipating than it is for you to be good."

    This particular lesson is one that I had to learn the hard way, several times, and it really applies to everything. I've got a podcast that I produce weekly, when I'm late or put it off, I loose viewers.

    1. True! Consistency makes it so that if you don’t have excellence today, the audience knows you’ll be back tomorrow to try again, and they’ll be back to check if you pulled it off.

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