August 27, 2012

Designing a Deadline - Denise M. Ford

When I wrote for a local newspaper I always knew my deadline as the Friday before the Tuesday printing.  Obviously my news for the small town column I wrote didn’t always include up-to-the-minute newsflashes.  Still I appreciated the sense that I had a weekly timeframe to organize my thoughts and ideas.  I fell quickly into a pattern of assembling information, collecting snippets on what shouldn’t be missed for the current week, and obtaining notices of upcoming events.  After placing these in order of importance I would then determine what might be an interesting lead-in to these more mundane items.

Sometimes I would delve into the town’s past history or touch on local legends that could highlight pending festivals.  As such I enjoyed creating ways to enlighten the citizens of my little town and to encourage conversation amongst them beyond the everyday talk about weather, happenings, and calendar announcements.

I thought about this as I began to worry about an upcoming deadline.  I wish this word and its connotations didn’t hold so much power over me, or rather that I wouldn’t allow it to wield control of my days.  How can I begin to let it slide into the sidelines of my thoughts instead of hovering helplessly above me like a huge pail of water balancing on a tightrope, splashing and spitting its contents onto my head. 

Because I am not in the mood for a dousing of cold water, I need to refocus and print another deadline image into my mind.  So I revisit the days when I experienced my first deadlines.  I remember the unequivocal excitement, the careful chosen copy, the enthusiasm expended to entertain.  I specifically recall picturing in my mind the faces of people I knew who would read my column.  I imagined their smiles and nodding heads as they spent a little time rolling my ideas around in their minds.

Fellow writers, I need to reframe the idea of a deadline so that it doesn’t continue to threaten to crash on top of me when I least expect it.  I need to follow a few simple steps that initially kept me focused on the freedom that writing allows; the sheer delight of choosing words to unlock moments of thought in other people’s minds.  I forgot that a deadline isn’t literal.  After our selection of printed copy finds its way onto a page or screen, it hasn’t died.  Every time someone reads it, it comes “alive” in a new way. 

Maybe those drops of water falling from above will begin to cascade on a cooler current, transposing into intricate patterns pushing forth toward perfection.  Ideas freely forming into phrases, sentences, paragraphs, articles, stories, shared thoughts.  Words that will be picked up, presented to and partaken by persons I can only hope to perceive.

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  1. Deadlines can be disturbing. On the other hand, I find without one (either self imposed or literal) my time seems to fritter away and I get little accomplished. I loved the imagery you created in this post, by the way.

  2. Hi Denise,

    I appreciate your perspective on deadlines. I hadn't thought of deadlines as being such a weight and of being frustrating. I need a deadline and I depend on it so much that I find it's what motivates me, and in fact, frees me, to write. So, I'm glad another writer is brave enough to share this difficulty - it has opened my eyes to yet another writer's thoughts. Thanks, Denise!
    Pam M.


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