Friday, January 29, 2016

Deadlines: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I'm writing this post while giving my mind a break from the squirrel-chasing that occurs when a deadline is at hand for something I'm working on. In this case, it's a 900-word article. I wrote a first draft in long hand last night while sitting in bed. After a hectic day, I was able to get my thoughts down on paper. Harry, my cat, had eaten his snack and gone off to his own bed (no more meows to sit in my lap as I worked at my computer or mad dashes through the house as he burned off energy). The house was quiet, and the words flowed -- or, at least, find their way in stops and starts -- onto the sheets of loose-leaf paper. I write on loose-leaf notebook paper when I need to focus. I think it has something to do with being a teacher or maybe having been a student trying to get a paper done.

I got my article written last night, but I knew even as I wrote that it was only a rough draft. And nothing would have been gained by trying to move beyond that last night. And this morning, I had to send a note to the editor who is waiting for the piece to say that I will submit this afternoon. I have missed my mid-morning deadline. But it would have been wasted energy to immediately plunge into getting the draft into my computer. First, I need to re-read with a big mug of tea at hand.

This deadline reminds me of the good, bad, and ugly of deadlines. The good:  a deadline requires a writer to focus his or her attention if it is to be met. The bad: the stress of focusing his or her attention may result in panicked gazing at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen. The ugly: in panic mode, he or she may rush to get something -- anything -- down on the page and off to a waiting editor.

For a moment last night -- as almost every time I sit down to write a draft -- I was in panic mode. Although I know what I'm writing about and knew what I wanted to say, it was all jumbled up. I had spent time re-reading research material. For much of last evening I made less valuable use of my time by imagining how an invisible reader would react to each word, every turn of phrase. I needed to shut off that voice and get down to business. Finally, well after midnight, with ballpoint pen in hand, I got a draft down on paper.

But this morning, I needed to take an hour or two to let my mind clear. And now I have a new deadline. I emailed to say I will deliver the article in three or four hours. The editor I'm working with kindly understood.

I hate missing deadlines, and I'm not cavalier about it. But I know by now when I need to give myself a little more time. What I should have done when discussing the deadline was admit to myself that I would have to follow my usual process -- panic, scribble, re-read, type and revise.I should have accepted the offer of the later deadline rather than assuming I could do this piece more efficiently because I knew what I was writing about. Process always wins.

How do you handle deadlines? What's your process?

2 comments:

Eileen Goudge said...

I'm currently on deadline and my biggest issue is with my publisher. They always want the next draft yesterday no matter how much work is involved. I just received the last one, the copyedited, from my publisher as I head out the door for a much-anticipated visit with my daughter in Maui. I explained to them I would not be able to work on it next week, but would get to it ASAP. They said no problem, they understood, and could I have it to them by next Friday. Grrrrr.....

Marianne Kearns said...

Here's something for you to ponder when I 'died' for close to a month...

Why else does a moth fly from the night than to a bold, attractive candle Light? Don't let His extravagant brilliance be extinguished, girl. You're creative, yes? Then fly-away with U.S to the antidote...

Meet this ex-mortal Upstairs, dear, for the most extra guhroovy, pleasure-beyond-measure, party-hardy-reality-show-addiction 24 / 7 you DO NOT wanna miss, where the Son never goes down from a VitSee-ing, ultra-passionate-YOUTHwitheTRUTH in which you'll find nonillionsXnonillionsXnonillions... of deluxe-HTTP [ pi ] opportunities for enveloping, engulfing excitement; where you'll looove an endless eternity of aplomBOMBs falling ALL over thy incredible, indelible cranium, as you'll have an XtraXcitinXpose with an IQ much higher than K2...

Here's what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' - the Infant Jesus of Prague

Go git'm, girl. You're incredible
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