Deadlines and Delirium

Or – Food for thought, the main course

I have a deadline. No, wait a second. That’s…I have a dream. Ok, I have that, too. But the deadline’s closer.

Sometimes we have things we HAVE to do. Granted, there are always more important things. If your child breaks an arm, your readers can wait at least until she’s home in a cast. If you hear a loud, resounding crash from the other room, that sentence can wait. There are things, occurrences and blood-curdling screams that will make you pause in your work.

Those aside, do deadlines have to be tough? Not really, but the pressure is more fun. Keeps the writer alive. Keeps the nails short and the coffee a-brewing. It’s exciting and invigorating. High blood pressure is a must for the muse.

It does, however, help enormously when a writer works with decent publishers and editors. Like we need more aggravation in our lives. We stagger from one creation to another, knowing what we do is for the entertainment of human kind, therefore important. But when a publisher decides to behave like an imbecile, words can hardly express how disruptive that can be to a writer.

Writers thrive on food for thought. Didn’t know that was a main course, did you? Food for thought is healthy, wholesome and packed full of fodder for the quill. It is what sustains us.

One thing I do like in my work world is for those I have to work with to have a professional and honest manner. Honesty and integrity are important. Take, for example, the publisher who switches rules in mid-stream. Throws writers off completely. We like the guidelines to be clear before we start the work. Once we’re off and running, disruptions just make us cranky. So a word to publishers and editors out there. Keep it simple, sane and sincere. This isn’t asking much. We writers are a quirky lot. Deal with it.

If your deadline looms and some dumb-assed publisher wants it sooner than agreed upon, or differently focused, take a deep breath, take two more aspirin and call them in the morning. You won’t be anymore coherent, but you certainly will have fun being morning-cranky with them.

If you’ve been steadily working on an aspect of the final project and your editor calls you to tell you they’ve scrapped that one but want something like this, tell them politely that you’re fine with that. Immediately upon hanging up, revise the work and sell it elsewhere. In the meantime, have your little one working that modeling clay to a soft consistency so the voodoo doll is easier to make.

If your editor starts to get too buddy-buddy, expressing her understanding about the writing life (she used to write, dontchaknow) stop her short. Tell her you are grateful for the understanding. However, she is no longer on this side of the fence and you’d prefer the relationship stay professional. No amount of her “understanding” is going to stop her from ripping your work apart, should she be having a bad day. Let her stay on her side of the table and you on yours. Let her know that one of the requirements of being your buddy is a mandatory ten hours of “volunteer” babysitting per week, so that you can meet your deadlines. That should close the subject.

Be honest in your dealings, hoping others will deal the same. You have words at your command. Don’t wimp out. Express yourself. Do so with clarity and purpose, be calm and professional. Make sure you include a few quotes from the contract, reminding them gently of their obligations. If this doesn’t work, there are other methods, but white-collar saboteurs are expensive. Try the calm approach first.

Just a few tips on how to make deadlines and editors a bit more digestible for the writer. We all have our style for dealing with issues. However, in the name of all that is wordmeistering, be cranky now and then, tell stupid people to shove off and make voodoo dolls ahead of time. If you’re in the writing life, you’re going to need them.

Copyright – J. Thompson