Friday, February 11, 2011

Dear Deadlines: I lovehate you.

I lovehate you, deadlines.  Rly, orly, lovehate you.

When I have oodles of time, I laze about on my ass.  I do all the things that are both precious to me and easy, like read novels upon novels.  I catch up on Top Chef.  I contact old friends and read every remotely interesting blog/article I find on the internet.  I enjoy these activities, yet I have little to show for them in terms of accomplishments.  (Although some could argue that gleaned knowledge and an increased usable vocabulary are accomplishments, they aren't things that bring much with them in the way of substantial reward.)

When I have deadlines, I sweat.  I stress.  I stay up too late, get up too early. Feel crazy tired and drink copious amounts of caffeine (the bean and the carbonated types) so that when I finally give up and carve out time for a nap I can't fall asleep for all the heart-palpitating stimulants swimming in my system.  I sit in the same chair for 12 hours a day.  I make microwave meals from boxes in my freezer that I'd forgotten I'd had because there's no time to go buy proper fresh food.

But damn do I love how much I get done when I have a fast approaching deadline to light a fire under my ass.

Yesterday I wrote somewhere between 3000 and 4000 words in order to get short story revisions done.  Lately I've been patting myself on the back for every 500 words written, so this feat was entirely the result of major MFA thesis deadlines creeping in.

Knowing how I am about deadlines -- that far off ones hold no pressure for me -- I've created a situation where I have work due every week.  Either a new short story or a short story revision.  And I have someone other than that good-intentions fairy of mine to hold me responsible / make me feel guilty for not getting it done.

And it's the revisions that are harder for me.  I lovehate them too.  I love some of the things that accidentally turn up when you're revising.  You've gotten feedback and formed an image of how to build a better mousetrap -- now all you have to do is build it!  And then little things pop up as you edit that smooth and connect things that you (and your feedback givers) had not even thought of.  It's the things popping up and clicking into place part I love.  It's also something I love about the writing the first draft.

I hate ripping the seams out of something you've already sewn only to resew it better.  It's why I say the seams give my quilts character.  (they're far from perfect)  But my quilts are just for me, and if I want anyone else to pay attention to my stories, then I have to pick up the stitch ripper, as much as I might hate it.  Revision's a bitch.  And I hate it, hate it, hate it.  I'd string it out over as long a time as I possibly could.  Unless I had a deadline to make me do what I lovehate.

And I lovehate you, deadlines, I really, really, lovehate you.*

Image by Nenyaki.
*You ever reference a movie without realizing it, then sit there thinking was that in a movie? what movie? and then you repeat the line again and again until finally hear the frustration/tears in voice and then suddenly you can see Meg Ryan in a poofy sleeved 80s cocktail dress?  Happens to me all the time.

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