Deadlines, Dreadlines


The deadline fast approaches....

The deadline fast approaches….

There’s a great quote from Douglas Adams on the Ayr Writers’ Club website:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

I love deadlines too but for different reasons; I need them. I do very little writing unless I have a deadline of sorts. It can be a date for a competition entry, an editor’s request (whoopee do!), something to finish before we go off on holiday/go into hospital/start a different piece of writing or whatever. If I have a date which I know I have to finish the piece by, then I will make sure I do.

But the deadline can’t be too far ahead. Too far and I leave it till it comes looming nearer. There comes a point in the calendar when I know that if I don’t start the piece almost immediately then I won’t do it well or get it finished to my satisfaction. I have to wait till then before I start though I will be thinking about it as I go about dealing with weeds or making a meal. (That is not to be recommended; too many burnt offerings and odd flavourings.)

I’ve had two deadlines recently, one for a local competition which I always try to support by putting in an entry, and one from an editor giving me the go-ahead for a pitch I submitted a while ago.

Deadlines scare me too. I don’t like being late for anything and I don’t like sending off pieces at the last minute. I always try to get them in well ahead of that date circled on the calendar, so the two pieces have been sent off in plenty of time.

Being ahead of a deadline has given me some nice extras – editors don’t like last-minute, unreliable contributors. They like writers who can produce the goods well within the time frame and  matching what they asked for. So if there’s a rush job (usually because one of their less reliable writers has failed to complete the remit), who do they turn to? Someone they know who can do it.

I’ve been asked to write scripts and articles with a very short deadline simply because the editor knows they can rely on me to do it.

Many years ago, I was asked to try out for a children’s comic for which I had been contributing stories. They were looking for someone to take over writing the Postman Pat stories as John Cunliffe, the originator of the character, wanted to concentrate on the TV work. I had to write two trial scripts and submit them by a deadline. I sent three well before the due date and got the job. That resulted in five years of a weekly income and over 300 stories about Postman Pat in the weekly comic, the holiday specials and the annuals.

And what did I write about? What my family, including my two young sons got up to. So if we went to the library or planted seeds in the garden, so did Postman Pat and his friends. My husband shaving off his beard was the stimulus for one of Pat’s friends to do the same! I have actually a record of our day-to-day activities when my sons were in primary school.

However, I learned one salutary lesson from it all. Obviously I was excited about getting the job of writing Postman Pat stories, so when my eldest came home from primary school, I told him the news. His face fell. I realised then that he believed in Postman Pat the same way as he believed in Santa and I had just disillusioned him. He never read any Postman Pat stories again, dismissing them as ‘just Mum’s stuff.’

And as for that children’s story I was drafting several blog posts ago….. well you see, there isn’t a deadline for that……

Excuses! Excuses!

Must do better. Somebody set me a deadline, please!


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