external deadline shahnaz two drops of ink marilyn l davis

A Favorite Writing Tool: External Deadlines

Note from Marilyn L. Davis, Editor-in-Chief

Sometimes we just know that a writer’s style is appealing and a good fit for Two Drops of Ink. Other times, it’s their willingness to work together on a post. Then, there are writers who give us a list of topics that they want to explore.

From her first submission, The Broken Promise of a Smoker, Shahnaz Radjy accomplished all three.

After reading her posts elsewhere, I also knew that she could deliver on her promise. I’m excited that she will now be a monthly contributor. Stay tuned for Two Drops of Ink topics, from Shahnaz’s perspective.



By: Shahnaz Radjy

Best-selling author Jeff Goins has some excellent advice for writers: he recommends establishing a daily writing habit instead of setting writing goals. His logic is that if you base yourself on writing goals, you can make up excuses and renegotiate deadlines with yourself – but if you sit down to write every day, there will be progress.

While I am still very much on the learning curve, I wanted to share one approach that has been particularly useful to me in diving into, improving my writing and my confidence about my writing, and getting published.

Know yourself

Who here has ever procrastinated, raise your hand. Okay, I see you, and don’t feel alone. I’m right there with you, and as a writer, that’s a problem.

Not only do I procrastinate, but I am very good at it. So much so, that sometimes I even manage to convince myself that I am productive while I am procrastinating!

When I read, I remember Stephen King saying that if you don’t make time to read, you won’t be able to write, so I read and consider that constructive, instructional procrastination. I don’t just go on social media and waste hours of my life; I’m researching trends. As you can tell, I’m a pro at several types of constructive procrastination.

Even with these forms of constructive procrastination, chores get done, my to-do list takes on a life of its own, and we dance the day away.

But I don’t write.

Set yourself up for success

It has taken me a long time to admit this to myself, and I am hoping that by naming the monster that is procrastination, I will diminish the power it has over me. In the meantime, here’s one action you can take that I have found works like a charm against this particular issue. Even if you’re not prone to procrastinating, it can help you become a better writer.

While working on developing better habits to keep me focused on my writing, I realized that I needed the incentive of possible publication to keep me from procrastinating. I identified a platform – Holstee’s Mindful Matter blog. I enjoy the content, and I can send submissions there, too.  The key here is that submissions were open monthly, with a different theme every month.

As of January 2017, they were the beat of the drum I marched to and wrote for, putting every monthly deadline on my calendar, with a reminder a few days prior. And every month, I submitted a piece to them.

In some cases, it was an article I had written when inspiration struck, and that was in my “ready to submit” folder (I might be a pro procrastinator, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be productive – I have good days, too!).

Other times, it was when my calendar reminder popped up. When I saw, “Creativity, due 10 June”, then I knew I had to sit down and write. Those reminders were the visual prompts I needed to meet deadlines.  

Find Your External Reasons for Writing

What happened was nothing short of magical. I was using Holstee as an excuse, a way to force myself into a minimal amount of discipline in my writing. And suddenly, I got published!

The first time, it took me almost six months. Within a year, I had six articles up on their blog.

The trick is to find external deadlines to structure your writing calendar. You don’t have to rely solely on one platform, it just has to reflect publications or websites that are a potential fit for your writing style. Click To Tweet

This can mean the topics you tend to write about, interests you have, or you can even take a risk and write about a new passion where you’re unfamiliar, but willing to do the research. However, you probably need to research more than just social media. Otherwise, it may just be that constructive procrastination.

Look for a Good Fit

It may seem like a long-shot, but someone famous once said: “if you aim for the stars and miss, you might still land on the moon” – so if you’re going to dream about being a published writer, you may as well dream big. So, take those platforms you love, and look into their submission guidelines.

You might have to look into a few options before you find deadlines that work in your favor like Holstee did for me. You could also check out Submittable (disclaimer: I’m new to the platform and still figuring out how it all works).

If the thought of sharing your writing makes you anxious, instead of letting the fear paralyze you, remind yourself that going beyond your comfort zone is how growth and learning happens. You can do this!

The good news is that with this approach, you cannot renegotiate deadlines you set for yourself (let’s be honest, we all do that at least once in a while) and you have a writing calendar to provide rhythm to your writing. Click To Tweet

As a bonus, anything you submit increases your chances of publication by 100%. Why is that? Because no one will ever publish your work if you don’t send it in.

My New Platform

I was looking for new deadlines to add to my calendar, and I came across a call for submissions for Two Drops of Ink.

That’s how The Broken Promise of a Smoker got published, and now I am thrilled to be one of the new monthly contributors – so my writing calendar is building up.

Writing is like any other habit or muscle. When you start, everything feels a little foreign and strange – are you really going to let strangers read what you wrote?

What if you haven’t quite found your voice yet? Work – or better yet, write through it. You’ll figure it out as you go – and you might even get published along the way.

I would encourage all of you to submit to Two Drops of Ink, too.

Now, go add that to your submissions calendar!


Shahnaz Two drops of ink marilyn l davisBio: Shahnaz Radjy

Shahnaz’s background is Swiss, Bolivian, and Iranian (yes, really). She loves food, books, horses, adventure, and problem-solving. She is a writer, aspiring farmer & eternal optimist.

After a decade working in public health for the International Labor Organization, the World Economic Forum, and The Vitality Institute, she is now planning to launch a farm and ecotourism project.

She is also recovering from the corporate life. Her writing reflects how beautiful life is outside an office while enjoying every minute of it.

Travel blog: http://www.farmaventure.com/
Medium profile: http://www.medium.com/@Sradjy
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/TheCramooz
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sradjy


Two Drops of Ink: The Home for Collaborative Writing

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  1. You are right no-one will share you work if you don’t send it in. Trouble is that is where we start asking questions of ourselves. “Will they want us?” “What if they don’t like it?” Those questions are where the brakes are applied, stopping the writer from submitting an excellent piece.

  2. Shanaz, i am so glad you are here at Two Drops! I love your posts and can’t wait to read more of your stuff. I totally understand procrastination, and deadlines do help with that!

  3. Welcome to Two Drops Shahnaz! So good to have you here!
    I like your term constructive procrastination. I’ve always referred to mine (not that I do it much) as intentional procrastination. I feel better about myself as a writer then. 😊
    Thanks for sharing your tips on overcoming that nasty habit so we can get on with the business of writing for publication.

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