Light at the End of the Tunnel (It’s Your Deadline) [Tall Drink of Nerd]

 In *Archives, Amy Robinson, Fierce and Nerdy

“My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer.”–Cole Porter

Deadlines and I are frenemies. Without a deadline, even if it’s just a scrawl on my to-do list, I would never get a thing done. Having a deadline is a light at the end of my creative tunnel. Sometimes that light is the finished project coming out into the sun. Most of the time, a deadline seems like a train, carrying a cargo of procrastination that is about to run me over.

Even when I’m super excited about something, say things like writing a bi-weekly column for this online publication, I put off the inevitable. Usually I start a bit of writing a few weeks before the item is due, committing myself to bits of research, looking at other points of view, digging up thoughts and memories. Then suddenly, somehow, it’s an hour before deadline and all I have are a few scratchy notes that that seemed much, much more comprehensive in my head than they do on that sheet of paper. Here comes that train, barreling towards me with little regard for my excuses, no matter how valid they sound. Time and tide wait for no man, or writer.

This is not a new phenomenon. I sucked at homework. I can admit now that I was a fairly good student, but I would have accomplished a lot more if I had focused on history or geometry problems at the kitchen table instead of my chosen way of spending an evening; either reading a book or dancing around in my room play acting out little skits about how Gopher and Isaac the Bartender were both in love with me.

Most mornings you would find me in the school hallway, about 10 minutes before anyone else arrived, quickly scribbling answers to the assignment that I should have finished the night before. Having a deadline is the main reason I got into college. If they had included questions on the SATs on American Top 40 or the bibliography of Stephen King through the 80’s, I probably would have gone to Harvard.

While I knew that I am not the sole sufferer of procrastination treated with the miraculous healing power of the deadline, I thought I surely felt it more acutely than the rest, until I took over duties as an editor…

I’m here to tell you that everyone, meaning EVERY ONE, is helped by the deadline. Sometimes they wave to it from far in the future, getting everything in, done, finalized long before that bell tolls (this is not a common occurrence.) Most times the deadline shakes hands with the creator, at the exact moment they were intended to, not a moment before, not a moment after. But quite often, the deadline gets a smack on the caboose as it passes, just a little something to say ‘I know you exist Deadline, but I didn’t quite catch you in time for that hand shake. We’ll get it next time, but for today, this little back-side pat will have to suffice.’

It’s fun and funny, to know that everyone does the deadline dance. When I came across the quote from Cole Porter, which I placed at the top of this post, about inspiration coming in the form of a call from the producer, I thought: “If one of the most prolific song writers of his time spent his time fiddling around until he had a deadline, I must be doing something right.”

FYI – I wrote this column about 18 hours after the deadline.

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featured image credit: aresauburn

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Showing 6 comments
  • janicapanny

    Gopher & Isaac – Haha!  Good thing I wasn’t drinking while reading.

    I can totally relate.  I smack that caboose on the backside about as often as I’m shaking hands with the deadline.  In face, I know that caboose like the palm of my hand. (rim shot)  Thanks for the laugh & camaraderie! 

  • janicapanny

    Gopher & Isaac – Haha!  Good thing I wasn’t drinking while reading.

    I can totally relate.  I smack that caboose on the backside about as often as I’m shaking hands with the deadline.  In face, I know that caboose like the palm of my hand. (rim shot)  Thanks for the laugh & camaraderie! 

  • Ernessa T. Carter

    Oh, my gosh, I loved this post!!! You are so right. It’s a fascinating peek into the psyches of writers that most will never get to see or truly understand. The most interesting bit imo is how it corresponds to people’s day jobs. For example, those who work behind the scenes (especially in entertainment) are usually early and so on. The other thing that is how little it has to do with the quality of the post. Looking back over the years it’s impossible to tell the difference between the post we got in way ahead of time and the posts that were dashed off at the last minute. This actually makes me feel better. Like don’t worry how the sausage got made as long as it gets made. 

    • Amy Robinson

      And now I want sausage. 

      You’re right about the quality/time equation, for the majority of posts. There are a few I muddled over for days that I would still like to edit and there are those that poured out of me in minutes…that I would still like to edit. 

      There is a good deal to be said about discipline and work as well. But for me the deadline helps activate those.  

  • Ernessa T. Carter

    Oh, my gosh, I loved this post!!! You are so right. It’s a fascinating peek into the psyches of writers that most will never get to see or truly understand. The most interesting bit imo is how it corresponds to people’s day jobs. For example, those who work behind the scenes (especially in entertainment) are usually early and so on. The other thing that is how little it has to do with the quality of the post. Looking back over the years it’s impossible to tell the difference between the post we got in way ahead of time and the posts that were dashed off at the last minute. This actually makes me feel better. Like don’t worry how the sausage got made as long as it gets made. 

    • Amy Robinson

      And now I want sausage. 

      You’re right about the quality/time equation, for the majority of posts. There are a few I muddled over for days that I would still like to edit and there are those that poured out of me in minutes…that I would still like to edit. 

      There is a good deal to be said about discipline and work as well. But for me the deadline helps activate those.  

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