This blog has been online long enough now that you’ve probably heard all of us griping one way or another about deadlines. We all have ‘em, like death and taxes, and they don’t seem to be any more avoidable, either.
And I think we all must sound like the worst middle school students in the world, struggling to stay awake on Sunday night and hoping our markers don’t go dry or the glue-sticks run out before we finish that science project poster on “The Pennsylvania White Tail Dear: Forest Friend of Deadly Foe?” that we shouldn’t have put off until the last minute like our mothers said.
You know, Procrastinators R Us.
But we do have our reasons, and they’re not that we’ve squandered the last two weeks sprawled on the den couch eating Nacho Cheetos and playing Halo or The Sims II: Open for Business, either. Deadlines are supposed to be carved in stone, or at least written in blood into our contracts. They’re not. No matter what your best intentions are, Stuff interferes. As Edith said yesterday, there are no sick days for writers. Susan/Sarah had to cope with the guys hammering and sawing and generally crashing about to install her new floor, and there’s another day or two or three of writing gone. For me, the season for my daughter’s travel ice hockey has already begun, which shoots my weekends for anything beyond burning up another tank of gas.
Yet there are plenty of deadline disasters coming from those editorial offices in New York, too. Sometimes, as in Loretta’s case, a publication date is moved up: generally a good thing, until the hapless writer realizes the deadline’s been moved up, too. Sometimes an editor is going to a conference/vacation/delivery room/other job, and if the writer wants to be paid before the next millennium, it’s advised that the manuscript arrives before the editor leaves. Sometimes it’s another part of the publishing puzzle that has been dropped on the floor for a week or two, and we’re expected to make it up –– those calls that run “Gosh, I just got the line edits for your next book, and instead of those usual two weeks we generally give you, it looks like your changes are due back to us day after tomorrow. That’s okay, isn’t it?” It’s not, but somehow we generally we do it.
Which is probably a lot of our problems. We’re all Nerdy Good Girls. We don’t like to say no. We also have a certain amount of Wonder Women in our collective gene pools, that part of us that agrees to foolishness like simultaneous contracts and an extra little novella. Whenever you hear a writer brashly talking about “oh, I can knock that out”, it’s generally a good guess that the only thing that will finally get knocked out is the poor shlub at the keyboard.
All of which is a nice way of admitting that yes, I’m the Wench currently in the deepest ring of Deadline Hell. (Do you think it was any accident that the Inferno was so thoroughly described by Dante, A Writer?) I’m in that really bad place where I calculate how many words written against how much story and how many days left, and only feel black despair at the total. My work “days” are beginning before breakfast and lasting far, far into the night. I’m actually looking forward to driving five hours to an ice rink in distant Long Island next weekend because it means I won’t be typing.
Still, if I’m honest, I’m not sure that writers can claim deadlines all to themselves. Life is full of deadlines of one sort or another, from the frivolous (“Must lose ten pounds before reunion”) to the most solemn (“Must reach hospital before gravely ill family member dies.”) Deadlines work hand in hand with goals, too, and the very human desire to finish what’s been started. A farmer has from April until September to sow, grow, and harvest his crops. A woman has nine months to produce her baby. All of us, if we’re fortunate, are granted seventy years, more or less, to accomplish whatever we wish to accomplish.
So, you’ve heard enough WordWenchWhining from us. What kind of deadlines are you facing? And are you doing better than us at meeting them?