Deadlines Are Meant to be Broken

Monday, December 27, 2010

Do you work better under pressure? Yeah, me too. With the clock ticking, the rush of adrenaline, the total focus on the job leads to my best writing. I blame my work as a newspaper stringer for that attitude. Because, even though that’s what I used to tell myself, the truth is a bit different.

1. Deadline writing isn’t the best. Writing, like stew, is always better the second day. When you have a chance to go back after a few hours—or days—all the flaws in a piece seem to jump out at you. A time cushion gives you the opportunity to do last minute research, ask sources follow-up questions, or get great quotes.

2. Life happens. If we were all sitting in our safe and secure little offices, deadline writing would be a bit different. But there are too many opportunities for interruption. Computers die sudden deaths, college daughters leave their glasses on the kitchen table demanding an unplanned two hour trip to their dorm by mom, babies make early appearances. All three have happened to me while I was on deadline. Thank goodness not at the same time! Have you ever tried typing an article about chess with just your right hand while cuddling a cranky four day old baby in your left hand?

3. Deadlines are missed. For all your screaming to your family to be quiet and scribbling bits of writing late into the night it finally becomes obvious you aren’t going to meet the deadline. You have to beg your editor for more time. Unfortunately, the miracle of email makes it impossible to blame the missed deadline on someone else (i.e. the US Postal Service). No more “I put it in the mail. I don’t know why you didn’t get it!” Now, editors know that article is just a second away. The only obstacle between them and that article is you pushing the send button.

4. You’re losing future work. When you have to miss a deadline it’s easy to rationalize it. “I had hundreds of deadlines this year and I’ve only missed this one.” That, however, is your viewpoint. Editors don’t care about your viewpoint. How many times have you worked with this editor? Imagine this is the second time you’ve worked for this editor. To them you miss 50% of your deadlines. Would you want to take a chance on someone who misses 50% of their deadlines?

So do what I do…mark your calendar with the orange deadline and the red deadline. The orange deadline is a week before the actual deadline and the red deadline is the day before the actual deadline. Always, always, always shoot for the orange deadline. Life will be easier. You will be happier. Your writing will improve.

To hear more from Jodi stop by her blog Words by Webb. When not writing color-coded deadlines on her calendar, she’s searching for an agent for her World War II era novel.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Since I was furiously typing on something yesterday afternoon
(12/31 was the deadline), the procrastinator in me likes the "orange and red" system. Thanks.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top