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Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

crisisOnce, on a job interview, one of the questions posed this dilemma: I was faced with three crises at once. How would I set priorities to address each one to avoid a disaster? I must have answered well enough because I got the job.

Something like that happened last week in my writing life. A notice about a contest dropped into my email inbox. But, the deadline was two days away! This contest has been around for several years, yet for some reason, I had never been aware of it before. I had a few things in inventory that might be suitable. But, my blog was due the next day, I had scheduled a meeting with my critique partner to work on another story with a pressing deadline, and I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon. On top of that, my blog host had just introduced a new editing interface, which I was sure would entail a learning curve. So, would I really have time to tweak, reformat or whatever else was necessary to get the contest entry ready? Should I even try?

For some people, writers who have more irons in the fire, or writers with family or work obligations, this may not seem like all that much to deal with. But it still required some planning and decision-making. My first response is always to panic. Luckily, I know from experience that this phase will pass. My second response is to take a shower. It’s a well-known, but somewhat mysterious, fact that shower time generates ideas.

I came up with a plan. The contest had both fiction and poetry components. I would enter only the fiction division. Those stories were already in better shape than the poems I had in mind to enter. I had an earlier draft of a blog post that I could finish up, so I had a head start on that. Reviewing the story for my critique meeting could be done while waiting in the dentist’s office.

I was all set to go when suddenly I got an email telling me the contest deadline had been postponed for 5 days. The new blog editing page was easier than I had expected. It was all a welcome reprieve and allowed me time to prepare and send off the poems, as well as the stories to the contest. The blog post went up on time and when I reviewed the other story I was working on, I saw it was in better shape than I had remembered.

There’s no telling if any of it will pay off. I only know that I felt like a winner. Until next time. 

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 Deadlines. They seem so far away when I first pencil them into my plans and schedules. But time speeds by, other unavoidable tasks crop up, or I underestimate the difficulty of the project. I try, try to train myself to start early, to get a jump on things, or to create a fake, earlier deadline in order to get moving. But my untrickable subconscious knows very well that it’s a fake deadline and blows it off. Yet, I keep trying. After all, I’ve managed to do it with other appointments. I leave plenty early for the dentist, for movies and lunch dates. And while I used to respond well to deadlines, now they render me immobile with stress.

More importantly, I’ve learned that trying to do things at the last minute is a dangerous practice. If I wait till the day of the deadline for a contest, anthology or other call for submissions to send off my entry, I know I’ll be plagued by some catastrophe or roadblock.

For instance: As I make the last tweaks to the manuscript, Word will hiccup and screw up the formatting for the entire text. I won’t know what happened, so I’ll tear my hair out for hours trying to reverse it. “Undo” will be strangely ineffective. The online support and forums will be mystified or useless. Worst of all, I will have once more broken my “rule” about saving a slightly earlier draft, so I have nothing to go back to.

If that doesn’t happen, my cat will need emergency surgery, my internet will go down or the fire department will knock on the door with a mandatory evacuation order due to a gas leak. The local library or cyber café will be under the same order and besides, I haven’t saved the work in a portable or cloud form.

Okay, so sometimes it works out. I wait till the last minute and succeed. But that just allows me to think it’s a practice that’s safe to continue. Also, it will never be perfect. Even if I get better at working ahead, life will occasionally throw an unexpected punch. Still, starting writing projects early is habit I want to add to my skill set. Now if I could just convince my subconscious to cooperate.   

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