A whine, overheard while writers were at work in a local café: "Is there any cure for chronic self-editing?"
"Yes," I thought. "It's called a deadline."
How much do I love deadlines? A deadline is every writer's best friend, even when we think it isn't. Deadlines are what keeps me sane, and more important, what keeps me honest. Deadlines are sometimes the only reason a project moves off my desk (and out of chronic self-editing hell) to where it's supposed to go. Deadlines are what makes it possible for me to organize my work life, do cash-flow projections (also known as depression charts!), plan for family needs.
Deadlines might be traditional (an editor or client tells me when he wants a piece of writing, a conference sets a date when panel proposals are due), or what I call reflexive (a class begins on a certain day, which causes me to set a deadline X days ahead for getting my notes, lecture and hand-out materials ready).
Any way I can get a deadline, I'll take it. Because deadlines do more than keep me moving along.
Deadlines also force me to continue to grow as a writer, editor and writing teacher.
I get kind of nauseous thinking about all of the things I would never have accomplished (or completed) if not for deadlines.
Which is why I advise editors and clients who are easy-going, who trust me, or who maybe have flexible deadlines themselves, that I want a deadline; no matter what, there must be a deadline.
No deadline for me can translate into a project – no matter how excited I may have been about it initially – falling to the bottom of the to-do list. Often that's because the project itself, which seemed like such a good idea at the time, is something that scares me a little, something that's a stretch, maybe something which causes me to thwack my forehead and groan, "What was I thinking when I took this on?"
A deadline forces me to just do it.
I'll tell you the deadlines I don't like: the ones warning me my holiday presents won't arrive in time. That's it. All other deadlines are my friends.
A writer friend in the early stages of a (non-writing-related) dissertation, told me her (respected, lovely, supportive) faculty advisor kept saying things like, "Just get me the next chapter draft in a reasonable amount of time…." This was driving her nuts, so she proposed a deadline.
"How about January 28?" she suggested.
"No," the professor said. "January 20. Don't be late."
Was my friend happy? Of course not, she was upset that her "deadline" had been moved up.
Writers. You just can't please us.
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