Beat the Clock (to smithereens)

blogXhorseXraceI’ve come across authors who say they can only write on deadline. The reality of having to produce by a date certain motivates them to get the words onto the page like nothing else–so they say. These authors forget, apparently, all the years they wrote prior to becoming published, when they honed their craft and came up with something so delightful, an editor chose THAT BOOK to put in one of very few precious publishing slots.

blogXpocketXwatchI can write on deadline, but I don’t prefer it, and this little video explains why. To summarize, an advertising agency grew tired explaining to clients why coming up with a single meme, ad, book cover or other visual was so time consuming. So the agency did a demonstration. They drew a simple picture, and gave a room full of kids 10 seconds to copy the picture.

blogXstickXhorseEvery kid drew pretty much the same thing, no bells or whistles, nothing remarkable–but they got the drawing done in ten seconds! Then the agency gave the kids a lot more time to render the same image, and…. magic. Tigers and butterflies, flags, and flowers. The same assignment became an exercise in creativity rather than beating the clock.

I want to make a distinction here: I don’t equate speed of production with sophie_244wquality, or with lack of quality. One of my most popular books–and my first RITA nomination–is Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish. I wrote it in a little over six weeks. Taking three times that long to write a book has resulted in other RITA nominated books, and a lot of books that weren’t nominated for anything (though I love them ALL). 

Speed of production isn’t the same thing as urgency of production. I could have taken another few weeks with old Sophie, but she was ready to be written, so boom. Here’s your book. The point I’m struggling toward is that necessity might be the mother of invention, but freedom is the mother of creativity. Freedom to experiment, to fail, to tinker, to take a break, to ruminate.

pegasusSo as the year gets out of the starting blocks and prepares to roar around the first turn, I wish you all the freedom you need to be creative in the face of your challenges. I wish you the strength to ignore the false urgency others try to press upon us, and I wish you the courage to frolic when you have the time.

Do deadlines help you? Have you ever missed a deadline and had the ceiling fall in? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish.



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10 comments on “Beat the Clock (to smithereens)

  1. The last job that I had before I retired involved many varied duties and I was allowed to pretty much set my own priorities – which I loved. However, there were some things that had to be done which involved payroll. Those things had a definite deadline. I always considered it a challenge that I enjoyed. If I didn’t make the deadline, the ceiling would not fall in, but my friends in the payroll department would not be happy with me.

    No need to put me in the drawing. I have Lady Sophie both in print form and on my kindle. She’s one of my favorites by the way.

  2. Deadlines help me especially when I am learning or trying something new. I am taking over a weekly report in my department. I had to have it completed by EOB Friday. The deadline helped me focus, set goals, concentrate and get the job done.

    I write better under deadline, too. The writing seems to flow for me when I know I need to get it done. I am not sitting in front of the screen worrying about word choices or tense agreement.

    Celeste and I have a few goals this year. I would like to start our obedience title, finish a herding title and return to rally and work towards our rally advanced tittle. The ceiling won’t fall in if we take a bit longer to qualify or change course. Some folks set deadlines in dog training. We are training for fun!

    Really love the website!
    Spring has arrived!

  3. I am amazed to see how differently people respond to deadlines. I dread deadlines and always panic in a time-sensitive situation. Once the panic sets in, I tend to stop thinking clearly and make decisions I wouldn’t normally make when in a more calm state of mind. On the other hand, my brother is a trauma surgeon who thrives on deadlines and emergency situations. He claims that knowing the time-sensitive nature of situations allows him to shut out all distractions and think much more clearly. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that kind of response, as it is so foreign to my own. But, I truly admire his ability to respond calmly in the face of deadlines. I just wish that particular gene could have been passed along to me as well!

  4. I write a weekly column for my professional society’s website. The columns go live on Wednesdays but I am supposed to get it in (for approval or editing) by Monday evenings. It forces me to write something and not procrastinate. Some weeks I think it helps me to be forced and some weeks, not so much.

    I have all sorts of other deadlines with my choir…just part of PR or auditions or something…..and it seems normal to me.

    I’ve always felt being compelled to do something or finish something helps me to get ‘er done. I mostly like having a deadline…except when I’m under one!

  5. Other than the time I was using our first computer to write a paper for a history class and lost a ton of information because I had learned neither the mantra “save often” nor the data limit on files on old 5 1/4″ floppy disks, I can’t think of a serious problem with deadlines. 😉 I had always been the type to do research up until the last minute before writing papers and more than once it paid off when I found wonderful resources at a point where I probably should have been mostly done writing. One time I stumbled upon a book in the Emory Theology library that had been published in the late 1920s and had not even had the folio pages cut so the book could be read! The feeling of knowing that I was the first person to read this book was beyond exciting. Plus it turned out to be a terrific resource.

  6. I like the new website. Very fresh.

    I don’t know if I do better with deadlines or not. I’ve not really dealt with them all that much since graduating from college. And I was the queen of a writing a mediocre paper the night before.

    I guess the closest I get to a deadline these days is state testing dates. I do find that with some of the current changes in state testing (which is a diatribe all it’s own) I find that I don’t care whether we cover all the material before the test because I know it is not humanly possible. And if I did get it all covered before we started testing, what I am I supposed to do the month remaining in the semester? I’ll worry more when the test actually impacts student grades; until then it’s the least of my worries.

  7. I did a display at work. My display is up this month. I started thinking about it in January. I started talking about it in February. By the time March came I felt pretty good about it. It helps for me to get ideas from other people and look at small steps. If I look at everything at once I kind of freak out.

  8. While I finish projects faced with a deadline, are they my best work? Often not, tho’ I confess to a few genius ideas born out of sheer desperation – with far more failures.

    I need time for things to percolate, to steep, to give me their deepest, darkest secrets.

  9. Deadlines do help me, and I usually get things done before the deadline arrives. Also, I have found if I make out a “to-do list” that I can accomplish things a lot smoother than having several things rattling around in my brain that need to get done.

    My sister sent me the following quote – “When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, everyday a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) (1885-1962)

    This quote has helped more times than I can count. I keep it posted on my fridge.