Sunday, November 13, 2011

Necessary Evil

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.


  1. It's Bob Seger, not Jackson Browne...

  2. I never pulled an all-nighter either in college or grad school. The ability to plan and set deadlines has also served me extremely well in my day job. When you get a reputation for delivering when you say you will, the payback is immense.

    In my writing, I'm finding the challenge is that it is by definition no better than third priority (health and sanity, family and close friends are 1 and 2). So the time is scarce and my ability to budget is less under my control than it's been anywhere else.

    But still the deadines help. I'm currently fighting two writing deadlines and as extra motivation, I've put up $1000 as a 'fine' if I miss them. Right now it's damn stressing, but I doubt I'll miss them in the end.

  3. I'm amazed at all the output you have going on. Its almost superhuman, especially for someone who isn;t relying on writing alone for an income. Now I know the secret of your success - you work like crazy.

    Its funny, just before i read the next line when you said you liked to be in control I thought ( "but but but . . .") and then you admitted that maybe your submission role was a relief from that. I wonder if that's why many if not most of the men who go to high priced dominatrixes, are men of wealth and power.


  4. I completely, completely agree about deadlines. I feel the same way and have been known to get almost nothing done without them, for many of the reasons you described. With them, the whole game changes. Missing a deadline seems anathema to me (not that I've never done it, but I sure do despise it).

    (I also relate to the desire for the illusion of control in general and a tendency toward submission sexually. I concur with the speculation about it you offered as far as my own perspective—and Garce, I tend to think that often is a part of what you mentioned, though of course everyone is an individual and would have his/her/their own unique motivations [don't want to generalize inappropriately].)

    All best with your busy month, Lisabet! :)

  5. Oops! You're entirely right, Anonymous! I should check these things before posting. Chalk it up to a senior memory!

  6. Hello, Ed,

    So who does the $1000 go to, if you miss the deadline? That's a pretty heavy penalty.

    I agree 100% about priorities, though. When family or a close friend needs me, the deadlines have to be relaxed.

  7. Jeez, Garce,

    I feel like I'm really not very efficient, or productive. Look at Kristina. Now THERE'S a super woman. Two young kids, writing and editing full time, a husband whose work keeps him away from home lots of the time. I don't know how she does it.

    That being said, being even somewhat organized does help.

  8. Hello Emerald,

    It's not the deadlines themselves, actually, but the commitments they represent, that compel me. I've been known to contact an editor and negotiate a new deadline, when I can see that I'm going to have to kill myself to make the current one. That doesn't bother me. It's saying that I WILL do something by a particular time, and then not following through, that I can't bear.

  9. Lisabet--the $1000 goes to an personally undesirable charity. In my case, the NRA. It's double incentive not to pay up.

  10. OMG, Ed, that's truly an evil penalty.

    Do you really need motivation that strong?

    Don't let the NRA know or they'll try to slow you down.


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