Nothing quite kills the spirit like the concept of a deadline. From an early age we learn to hate them. A deadline is the arch nemesis of humanity’s most endearing hindrance: procrastination. In a never-ending battle these two foes push each other back and forth. And of course, only one will win.
Everyone, at some point, has to deal with deadlines, from grade school on up. And although deadlines come in many forms, the ones which challenge our procrastination the most always seem to involve writing. Whether writing about something we enjoy (“The Brilliance of George Melies”) or something we don’t (“Dick Cheney, Then and Now”), the result of a deadline is always the same. At some point, sooner or later, you will be staring at a computer screen with no idea what to write.
And that agony is a specific type of torture, isn’t it? I can’t believe Dante forgot to mention this level of Hell. Where you take every ounce of concentration just to come up with that first sentence. And once that first sentence is written, you glance at the clock to see that 30 or 40 minutes has rolled by. Then you reread your work and realize, beyond a doubt, that this one sentence you’ve written today is absolutely terrible.
Writing for fun and writing for a deadline each feel very differently. Writing with a self-imposed deadline (“I’m going to finish my novel this month!”) is somewhere in the middle. But, although I may not know a whole lot about writing, I have noticed one thing. The writing gigs that pay money generally come with a deadline. Because they themselves have deadlines. Magazines, newspapers, blogs. Part of learning to be paid to write is learning how to meet deadlines. In fact, that might be the most important part.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call deadlines a “necessary evil” because I don’t think evil is ever necessary. Maybe a necessary cause of ulcers for some of us, or, how about “necessary annoyance”? Because without a deadline, why would any of us do anything? Deadlines are the reason we change the oil in our cars, or why our taxes get done on time.
Coming up with ideas is easy. Ideas for movies, plays, novels, even revolutions. But without a deadline, what gets done? Don’t fear them, embrace them. Take on the challenge. Procrastination be damned! If no one is around to give you a deadline, make one up. Whatever you need to write, get started.