By Lisabet Sarai
Well those drifter days are past me now.
I've got so much more to think about.
Deadlines and commitments,
What to leave in, what to take out.
~ Bob Seger, "Against the Wind"
I hate stress. I'm paralyzed when I have too many tasks on my to-do list, and too little time to complete them all. I've been known to scream, tear at my hair, literally bang my head against the wall under the influence of over-commitment stress. I really hate acting like that. (My husband hates it too.)
Paradoxically, I love deadlines. Well, perhaps “love” is a bit strong, but I heartily appreciate them. For me, deadlines are tools to avoid the kind of crazy misery described in the previous paragraph. When I have a set of dates associated with my tasks, I can begin to manage them. They cease to become looming disasters and turn into simple chunks of work that I can schedule according to priority and required effort.
For example, I have two new releases this month, so I've committed to doing more guest blogging than usual to promote them. My calendar shows seven guest blog appearances this month, in addition to my usual stint at Total-E-Bound's Hitting the Hot Spot, on the 17th, and of course my slots here at the Grip every Sunday. I made a point of spacing out the guest spots throughout the month: November 4, 8, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21 and 28. Also, as a blog host myself, I know that blog owners really like to receive post content from their guests at least a few days ahead of time. That allows me to establish a set of deadlines for each post, which I will obviously work on more or less in the order that they are due. At this point, I only have the last three to complete. Not to mention the Grip, posts for my own blog Beyond Romance, and my monthly website update/newsletter, but those I will slip into the interstices.
When I looked at my commitments at the start of November, I had a few hair pulling moments. What had I gotten myself into? Because I've also committed (to myself) that I will finish my novel in progress, Quarantine, by the end of November. (I figure I have about 20K to go.) And I told Alessia Brio I'd finally finish editing the next Coming Together Presents book. (I sent that off last week.) Plus I've taken on a project for my job that needs to be complete by the end of the month, as well. Earlier in the month, I really had to calm myself down. I needed to remind myself that worrying about one deadline while I'm working toward another is counter-productive.
That's why deadlines are a necessary evil. They help me focus. And they provide structure. If I have three works in progress, but no deadlines, how will I decide which to address first? If I've promised an editor that she'll have my story by the 15th of the month, well, that answers the question for me.
One thing I've learned about myself over the years: I have a low tolerance for ambiguity. I like to have at least the illusion of control, the feeling that I know more or less what's going to happen. (Given this orientation, my attraction to sexual submission may seem a bit odd, but perhaps it's an antidote to the control I require in the other areas of my life.) Deadlines help.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that in eight years of college and graduate school, I never, ever did an “all-nighter”. And I never turned in an assignment late.
I owe it all to deadlines. Well, maybe not all. But I'd rather have a deadline than be floundering in a quagmire of uncertainty, smothered by unruly commitments.