Lisa Dale NortonLisa Dale Norton

Your Life as Story: Writing Narrative Non Fiction
2011: Reaching the Dream

Lisa Dale Norton

January, 2011

"Deadlines. They’re nothing new."

Deadlines. They’re nothing new. You’ve heard them from the time you were old enough to understand language, someone setting some date for the completion of some task: cleaning your room as a kid; turning in assignments at school; preparing a proposal at work; stepping up to a new level of growth in a relationship.

Always, a deadline.

And many of these deadlines do get met. We do achieve goals.

". . . when do you intend to do it?"

Often, though, personal creative goals are pushed to the bottom of this list of deadline-driven expectations. You know this. We all do it. What your heart most wants can wait. Everything else seems more important. But what are you waiting for, and when do you intend to do it?

The writers, and writing-hopefuls, I encounter fall into two distinct groups: 1) the ones who set writing deadlines, meet them, and complete stories about their lives; 2) the ones who set writing deadlines, do not meet them, and do not complete stories about their lives.

It’s that simple.

So in this new year, the best advice I have for those of you yearning to get on paper a story about your life is: find someone to whom you can be accountable, and it is best that it not be a family member. Family members love you too much and can not give you the kind of tough guidance you may need. Find a writing buddy—one trusted colleague of equal skill, or someone you perceive to be a little further down the path than you are—or find a writing coach, or book editor, and develop with that person a series of small deadlines to complete your manuscript.

"Even a simple deadline . . .can make a HUGE difference."

Even a simple deadline of 500 words per week can make a HUGE difference. One shimmering image per week. In the process of meeting these tiny deadlines, you’ll be working toward the big goal and witnessing yourself as a creative person in charge of your destiny.

It feels really good.

About Lisa Dale Norton

Lisa Dale Norton is a regular Authorlink columnist. She is nationally recognized as a writing instructor with a passion for story. Read more about Lisa.


Lisa Dale Norton's new book about memoir, SHIMMERING IMAGES: A HANDY LITTLE GUIDE TO WRITING MEMOIR (St. Martin's Press), is in bookstores now. Lisa is the author of the acclaimed memoir HAWK FLIES ABOVE: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE SANDHILLS, a work combining memoir and nature writing. She teaches for the UCLA Writers' Extension Program and speaks nationally on the process of memoir. She lives in Santa Fe.