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Can You Handle Deadline Pressure?

Can You Handle Deadline Pressure?

Some people still have a mistaken idea of the writing life. They envision a writer curled up in the corner of her couch, laptop in lap, leisurely writing. Or perhaps she’s sitting alongside a babbling brook, drawing inspiration from nature as she pens what she hopes will be her best-seller.

If that’s what they think a writer’s life is like, they’ve been watching too many movies. Or simply indulging in too many fantasies.

To begin with, most book-writers have another job as well. It may also involve writing; it may not be something totally unrelated, like embalming bodies in a mortuary (well, SOMEBODY’S gotta do it!). But it’s what keeps them in bread and butter, even if not lobster, while they do the work they love at night and on weekends. Their dayjob may be as copywriters, newspaper columnists, or, like me, they may be freelancers writing and editing for anyone who can use their services. But that lazy, idling, writing-by-a-babbling brook scenario? Let me hand you a dose of reality.

Under normal circumstances I NEVER miss church on Sunday, but this past Sunday, faced with a boatload of work and looming deadlines, I looked reality in the face and stayed home to work.

First project: I needed to finish keying in, and editing as I went, the latest installment of work for a client whose books come to me longhand. I had to return the longhand notes to him at our meeting scheduled for the next day. When finished with that, I planned to move on to working on a different client’s book, which has to be finished in the next month or so. (Can you spell “deadline pressure of multiple deadlines”?)

I was still working on the first client’s notes when I got a call from an associate, whom I had been helping with edits on a book-in-progress. He had done a major revision and, in the process, had inadvertently undone all my edits. (He had revised a version of the book that was pre-edits.) “How long would it take you to edit the book?” he asked.

I knew it was a relatively short book, and I knew it needed basically copyedits rather than being taken apart and reorganized, but still….

“Well, if I put aside what I’m working on now,” I started with deep regret, “and I work on it today and tomorrow….”

“You know that competition?” He had told me he wanted to enter the manuscript in a competition. “The entries have to be in by tonight at midnight.”

<gulp>

Bear in mind, what’s more, that I’m always up by or before 5:00—this morning I got up at 3:30—so not only do I go to bed commensurately early, I’m no damn good in the evening as far as writing and editing are concerned. He was telling me he had to have the book in by midnight, but realistically I had till 5:00 or so before I was too whupped to do a decent job.

I got the book edited by just before 6:00.

I finished the client’s longhand notes the next morning—before his usual weekly appointment.

I still have to finish writing the other client’s book—as fast as I humanly can.

If I were to sit next to some brook, I know what it would be babbling: “Hurry up! Finish! Hurry up! It’s almost July! Hurry up!”

Shut up, brook!

Deadline pressure, anyone?

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