At a party last week, a disheveled writer slurped his drink and complained to me about having deadlines. Not having too many or not enough. Just having them.
Photo by Ingrid Punwani
Me, I couldn’t live without them. They keep me in line and on track. Otherwise, when would things ever be finished or good enough to be handed in?When I was first considering writing at all, I went to night classes after my full- and part-time jobs. The pressure of having to hand in something made me produce each and every week despite the lack of time I had. Otherwise, I would have been like the rest of the world—“I’ve got all these great ideas. I just haven’t written them down yet.”
Now, they help me prioritize my week. I work on hourly, daily and weekly deadlines. I work on what needs to be done next. And as I am my own boss, this relieves me of having to decide what to work on next. (I’m a Libra and try to please everyone at once.)For example, here it is the 24th of the month, and everything I’m working on is due on the first. Everything. So it all has to be done at the same time.
As you can imagine, panic has set in, but because I have been working with mostly hourly and daily deadlines for the last 10 days or so, at the same time, it feels a little luxurious having six more days to complete everything.The panic increases, though, as two deadlines get moved up. And the person I’m interviewing changes flights over two days, and then is late because she had to get her hair done.
Things that have been stalled suddenly have to be completed in the next day or so, and I am still waiting on OKs from editors to proceed with the next step. Oh, and articles I filed a month or two ago have been sent back with edits and pleading e-mails with the subject line “Needs to be completed by tomorrow and ASAP!!”Sigh. Suddenly, my very organized and once color-coordinated week is a scrambled, gooey mess. What I had planned to work on all day today has now been bumped to do this interview—and it’s got to be handed in, in two days.
This is a good problem to have in these times, I realize, but that doesn’t keep me from freaking out. And like every other writer without the last name Patterson, King or Sedaris, I worry that it isn’t enough, that I must take on more, and that I should increase the number of pitches I send out each week. I wonder if I shouldn’t keep paper bags at my desk for breathing.The solution I have found is realizing that it all manages to get done in time no matter how much I panic. Take this column, for example ...