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There once was a plot line hard hittin

But the writer was best known for quittin’

“No time to write,” she did fret

No one objected, I bet

So she never got anything written.

Ahem. So. Now that these lines have demonstrated that your competition for poet laureate is at a safe distance, perhaps you are primed to discuss a more uncomfortable subject regarding lines. More specifically, deadlines and goal lines. Bear with me.

The Emotional Divide.

The most often cited origin of the term “deadline” is the line that, if crossed by a prisoner, allowed the guards to shoot at will. Perhaps that’s why writers facing a deadline feel they are “under the gun?” Goal Lines, on the other hand, are something we simply strive for (in sports, for example).

In short, while we seek the goal line, we are instinctively repelled by the deadline.

The emotional divide between the two types of lines is amplified by something we human beings value: control. This is probably the only time when the published author envies the unpublished writer. The writer has a goal line, set by him or herself. The published author has a deadline, set by someone else.

But the virtue of the goal line, as I see it, is also its chief defect. While a deadline must be hit or else we are . . . well . . . dead. A goal line is something we try to reach. We say we’re trying to reach a certain goal. Well, trying just isn’t going to cut it, mister. May I go so far as to suggest to you that goals can be our downfall?

Bridging the Divide.

How do we bridge the divide between goal line and deadline? How do we impose deadlines on ourselves that have real “teeth?” Saying the goal out loud is a good start. For me, the goal doesn’t even exist until I speak it out loud, publish it on Facebook, or tattoo it to my forehead (backwards, so I can read it when I look in the mirror).

But to fully cross the bridge, you need one more thing: you need someone who will push you when the bridge starts to wiggle and your hands start to sweat. You need someone whom @TheAsianAngel referred to as your “accountabilibuddy” (Twitter Dec. 28)–that person who can reciprocate with his/her own writing goals and agree to set deadlines for you and abide by the deadlines you set for him/her.

Practicing What I Preach.

So, I guess I’m looking for a little reciprocity here, folks. In an effort to practice what I preach, I am (gulp) stating my 2011 goals out loud to you here. Tell me yours and then let’s keep each other honest, shall we?

Goal #1: Write no less than 800 words a day–every day. (Doesn’t have to be great words, but doesn’t mean writing “I don’t know what to write” 135 times, either.)

Goal #2: Submit a Short Story to a literary journal before March 1, 2011

Goal #3: Write a poem (that is not a lame Limerick) before June 1, 2011

Goal #4: Encourage a Child to Write (every day)

Now it’s your turn. Step out on the Bridge. Don’t look down.

(photo by bea&txm)

About Anne Greenwood Brown

Anne Greenwood Brown (@AnneGBrown) writes MG and YA fiction. She is represented by Jacquie Flynn of Joelle Delbourgo Associates, and recently sold her debut to Random House/Delacorte Press in a two-book deal.