So how do we cope?
No matter what time I go to bed, I set the alarm for 5:30 AM. The sun is only just brightening the horizon above the Book Cliff mountains. Meadowlarks sing. The air raises goosebumps on my arms. The corn is another inch taller. I sing with my iPod or chat with Jesus. It's new. Fresh. Good. I can't write or hold a thought for the beauty in the middle of a cornfield. As my muscles get a workout, my brain is at rest.
And so, ladies of Novel Matters and fabulous readers, how do you deal with the deadlines of your life?
Patti's selected topic for our roundtable means it's confession time for me. My secret is out: I've never had to deal with deadline crunch before. My first novel published by NavPress, Every Good & Perfect Gift, was already completed when I signed the contract, so there was no deadline issue there. The edits, thankfully, were minor, so that wasn't an issue either. My second book with Nav, Lying on Sunday, was finished a bit ahead of deadline, but again, that book was the second book in a two-book contract, and was half written when I signed the contract. So it was easy to finish it on time. The only deadline issues I've ever had came with the final edits for Lying on Sunday. They were due shortly after the death of our son Brian. Nav graciously extended that deadline, which I was able to meet. Call me crazy, but I'd like to experience that deadline crunch one of these days. After all, it's a right of passage for an author, right?
And speaking of Call Me Crazy, have any of you heard the new song by that title on Mercy Me's new CD The Generous Mr. Lovewell? I love it. It's a great CD.
Latayne here. I've had writing deadlines -- books, articles, Webzine research for a large site and dissertation-- for 35 years now. Done several all-nighters in a row at special request when someone else has dropped the ball for an assignment, which is why I have an earned reputation for never, ever missing a deadline commitment. Got a system. Here are the essentials:
Dry roasted almonds and other non-sticky foods in a container with a hand-sized opening and no individual wrapping.
Takeout food. Those which can be eaten with one hand while scrolling down (fried chicken, taquitos, for instance) or even better, consumed through a straw.
No gum because I will forget I have it in my mouth and chew it till my jaws clench, or gasp and choke on it, or put it in between note cards for my WIP because the dog is between me and the trash can. Or he has turned over the trash can.
All liquids on the desk have a lid. Because I dance with the upper part of my body when it's really, really good.
To-do lists for my husband that keep him away from the house and involve no tools whatsoever for any reason. He requires that all lists be printed because he can’t read my handwriting otherwise. Also, sticky notes and duct tape on light switches: handwritten bloody oaths against anyone who turns on a ceiling fan in a room where I have note cards spread out. (Or who puts any foreign object on my desk or the piles of paper surrounding it.) And their little dog too.
Coffee with cream.
A folding screen between me and the door to my office. So people don't say hi. No matter who they are.
Some notes to self: Feed dog. Cut fingernails. (You can tell how close I am to a deadline by the length of my nails.) Look in the mirror at least once every other day.
Latayne, I can picture you there, screened in, sipping hot coffee through a straw, muttering bloody oaths while you hunch over a keyboard. There is something so YOU about that kind of genius. And the end result is magic.
Well, I'm glad Sharon kicked off the true confessions, because I have one too. I'm crazy. No, no. I mean it. Stop smiling knowingly over your coffee mug. I'm honestly nutso. When it comes to deadlines.
I love them.
Who but a deadline loving crazy person would enter university with a one year old and a three year old at home, while holding down a part time job, and while the hubby is working three (count 'em) three jobs while we refused to use daycare. I wrote paper after paper while raising kids, turning in newspaper articles (my part time job), and sleeping on my feet. I changed diapers while jotting notes for a paper on the role of the CIA in the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 (took a history class for fun). I dozed off a few times while writing a paper entitled The Role of Automatic Thoughts in Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy. Pushed my little girl on the swing and in between pushes I composed a paper on Keats using his voice and style (and in the same count as Autumn). Never missed a deadline.
When I started writing for publication and began working with an editor, I applied the same motto to that work as I did to university: Pull up your big girl britches and get it done. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you simply give yourself no other option. Also, when I was finished I resembled a little piece of poop, dangling from the end of a stick.
Like I said, crazy.
I'm with you on the gum, Latayne. I gave up gum several years ago when my TMJ (turbo-muscular...jaw pain) got the better of me due to deadlines & stress in general. I miss it - gum that is. Bazooka and Juicy Fruit, in particular.
The closer I get to a deadline, the earlier I get up and go to bed. It's hard to go to bed before sundown, but I've done it. I've found that early morning is my most productive time to write. Since I have a full-time job, I use vacations and holidays and mornings and lunchtimes and occasionally I write a bit at night between dinner and falling asleep on the couch. Once I dozed off with a glass of water in my hand and it slid out of my grip and dumped into my lap. Luckily, it missed my laptop.
Mornings, it's coffee. For the rest of the day, it's iced tea. If I'm desperate, Doublestuff Oreos and milk, dunked to perfection, but not soggy to the point of decomposing. Sugar is key.
It's me, just before I turned in To Dance in the Desert. I hadn't slept properly in weeks, or exercised, or had a haircut or even bothered to blow dry after washing. I'd been subsisting for months on Hot Pockets (because I could hold them in one hand).
The wonderful thing about my husband is that he thinks I'm beautiful in that picture. I'm not. I'm exhausted and sick and inclined to scratch the face of anyone who interrupts me. It's a scene out of The Exorcist. And all for nobody's deadline but my own. I'd told the editor who had expressed interest in Dance to expect it on a certain date, just to force myself to get it done.
I'd lost two weeks of writing time because of a medical crisis.
But I did get it done.
When I wrote The Feast of Saint Bertie, I determined to find a better way. I cooked big pans of chicken breasts on Sundays and made meals of them for the rest of the week. I took walks around my local lake every morning no matter what. Haircuts were still optional. Sleep? Well it was less optional than it was when I wrote Dance. There was no sense gaining time that I would lose later because I made myself sick.
Sharon, you'll get your crazy wish. Just you wait, my pretty.