Thursday, 23 September 2021

T The Pro-Active Author

The Deadline Jolt

As a writer and editor in publishing, I have many different deadlines. Some of these deadlines are self-imposed and others come outside of my control. One of the keys to professional writing is meeting these various deadlines with quality and on-target submission (what the receiver is expecting and needing).  I use the reminders portion of my cell phone to make sure I meet a number of those deadlines.

Last week I checked my email late one night and got a short reminder about a deadline. I'm not going to tell you the specific deadline but talk about it in general terms. It was something that I've been doing faithfully each year for at least six years. My part is one aspect of a complex system with many different pieces in the process. Normally I'm aware of this annual deadline and process the information during several hours on a weekend. This year I knew about it on some level but totally forgot getting it done. This experience was my deadline jolt.

My first inclination was to apologize and say I would do it in the morning since there was only a few hours until their deadline. After sending that brief apologizing email, I reconsidered, decided to go ahead and meet the deadline. I sent a second brief email saying I would turn in my paperwork in a few hours. The task is complex with lots of pieces and parts to accomplish. While intense for a couple of hours, I completed it and sent in my assigned work—and was about ten minutes after midnight when I hit the send button.

This sort of sheer panic is not something I face often these days in my writing life. Yet I have certainly felt this sort of pressure many times in the past. As a young journalist, I worked at a daily newspaper in the pre-computer days. Yes we used a standard old-fashion typewriter to create our stories. Our story and assignment meetings would happen early in the morning and my deadline would be 11 am for my story. Sometimes I would have to interview a number of people, gather my thoughts and crank out my story before the deadline. Then my writing would be published in the afternoon newspaper—normally around 3 pm. These experiences called for a fast turnaround and provided excellent training about the importance of completing deadlines.

Now it was in the evening and normally a time when I curl up with a good book and relax. Instead I faced another jolt deadline—something that was due in a few hours and I had not handled it. I made a decision to not delay until tomorrow but to dig in and do the assignment. I knew my delay would cause likely cause problems for my colleagues. In the process of meeting the deadline, I tapped into my experience of meeting deadlines in the past and pure determination to get it done.

If I get the opportunity to do this task next year (it's something that we recommit to doing annually), this deadline will definitely be on the reminders in my phone. If I handle it with greater deliberation and planning, I will not have another deadline jolt.

Like most of us, I'm only using a small portion of the tools and power in my cell phone.  Every phone comes with reminders. Are you using reminders in your writing life? I do but sometimes I have missed something and have a jolt in the process. Have you had a deadline jolt?


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Columnist: Terry Whalin

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W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former  magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. To help writers, he has created 12-lesson online course called Write A Book Proposal. His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com.

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