Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Love the Smell of A Deadline In the Morning!

Okay, not really, but I do love the way that headline sounded.

However, the sentiment’s actually not too far off my true feelings when it comes to deadlines. As a writer, I’ve found over the years that I tend to thrive on them. A deadline, after all, is the finish line in the race you run every time you accept a commissioned writing project, or write something with an eye toward making the due date for a submissions call. I know that other people hate deadlines or due dates of any sort, but I welcome them. They’re a stake in the ground; a target over which I may have little or no control beyond my responsibility for hitting it. Heck, they’re a dare, aren't they?

“Catch me if you can,” they taunt.

I’ve mentioned before that if I’m left to my own devices and with no external concerns driving my writing output, I tend to meander along. On the other hand, if I’m working to meet someone’s delivery date or other expectations? That sort of thing never fails to get my juices flowing. When it comes to paid writing, I love the structure of working to set due dates. For one thing, it allows me to budget and schedule my writing time in conjunction with other commitments (day job, family, household chores, other appointments, and so on).

Further, as I absolutely loathe missing any deadline, that only amps up the “competitive nature” of the whole process. To hear a lot of editors talk, the writer who consistently hits their deadlines—while providing clean writing, too boot—is a rarity; something to be treasured and nurtured. I like being one of those writers, so a deadline better watch out when it gets tagged to one of my projects. So long as I have anything to say about it, that sucker is going down, in flames which will be visible from space.

Even without the formal agreement of a contract and payment in place, I still dig deadlines. Take this website, for instance. Aside from the obvious answer that I liked what I was reading here, I accepted the offer to join the Novel Spaces team because I was intrigued by the idea of having to produce what I hope is an entertaining, informative article each month, while adhering to a regular schedule. As much as my intention is provide something interesting (I hope) for you to read, it’s also an exercise and even a challenge for me. Some months, the topic comes with no effort, whereas other times I’m scrambling for something about which to write mere hours before it’s supposed to be posted. This month, it was just such a dilemma that prompted this topic. “You like deadlines so much,” I told myself, “tell people about that. Some folks will think you’re out of your frappin’ mind. In other words, it’s Wednesday.”

Elsewhere, I supply a segment to a weekly internet radio show. The premise is fairly basic: The hosts send me a question from one of the show’s listeners during the days leading up to each week’s broadcast, and I supply an answer to be read on air. The questions run the gamut from serious to silly, reflective to ridiculous, wonderful to wacky. Other than truly offensive topics, nothing is off limits. Most of the time, I wait until the night before the answer is due before I even set to writing it. If I’m feeling particularly daring, I won’t even read the question before then. Why? For reasons surpassing understanding and perhaps even sanity, I love the rush of trying to be creative and—and in this case—funny on a deadline.

Ah, pressure, you saucy thing: How I love you so.

How about you? Do you thrive on the pressure of a deadline, or fear it? If it’s the latter, how do you cope? If you’re one of the crazy types like me, how do you go about beating those due dates into submission?


Charles Gramlich said...

Not me. I hate deadlines. And I usually work to get my stuff done way ahead of them so I don't feel too much stress.

Anonymous said...

"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."
— Douglas Adams

G. B. Miller said...

As a rule, no.

At work, even though I get a firm deadline, I often beat it by a week or two.

As for my writing, since I don't get paid to write, the most of a deadline that I see is the self-imposed ones I set for myself.

The last one I'd set for myself I'd missed by about two weeks.

I'm getting better at meeting them, but it's still an adventure just the same.

KeVin K. said...

No question, my productivity goes up when I'm under the gun.

My rep for speed under pressure has earned me a few rescue jobs over the years - that's cleaning up the mess left by someone who didn't hit the deadline.

The biggest problem with writing original fiction is there is no deadline and hence no urgency.
When writing for hire I can count on producing a steady 600 keepable words an hour. When writing on my own I usually produce half that.

Dayton Ward said...

Yep, I've answered the call of "The Cleaner" quite a few times, myself. Always nice to bank a marker or two when you pull off something like that.

Liane Spicer said...

I don't love deadlines, but they certainly get me moving. I'm talking about external deadlines here. It would take something catastrophic to get me to miss one.

Self-imposed deadlines are another matter. I scoff at those things.