Come on, deadline: I dare you to do your worst

Contributing WriterApril 28, 2014 

What do you do when a deadline looms over you and you just can’t get that much-needed boost to beat it? When your thoughts move like molasses and they’re too sticky to put into writing, do you try to grasp at whatever thought comes to mind?

Perhaps it is a good day to grab the concept of venting against that word “bonding.” When friends and family say, “Let’s bond,” I do get a warm, fuzzy feeling — along with warnings of being irrevocably stuck, bonded and superglued to someone who may not necessarily appreciate the situation.

How about “lol?” Does anyone say “laughing out loud” when they are actually laughing out loud, or does “hahaha” pretty much approximate the sound that they making loudly? Saying lol somehow gets the fun out of hahaha.

Maybe now is the chance to rant about why some reports have this sentence smeared in the middle of a nearly empty page: “This page is intentionally left blank.” Really? If that was the intention, why is the page not blank? Can I safely rely on the word of the person who intended to leave that page blank? Why did he or she just not leave the page blank as intended? What traumatic encounter pushed whoever started this practice into leaving pages intentionally unblank?

No one has ever accosted me or in any way gifted me with a traumatic experience for having a blank page in my report. So to test this practice, I prepared a document and smacked that sentence right in the middle of a page. I thought maybe somebody would feel cheated enough to call and demand, “Hey, that page that you intentionally left blank, why does it have words on it?”

Nobody called, and here I am with a deadline still.

Is the clock still ticking, mocking you for not producing a piece that’s worth printing? You can perhaps call your editor and ask for the deadline to be moved under a credible plea of temporary insanity or of an equally light affliction, but that would be like making a deal with the devil (whoa, not that my editors are devils!). To lose out on a deadline is to lose your word, a not so ideal situation for a writer.

A deadline can summon an angel who inspires a writer to soar, or a devil who pushes her face to the ground. You have to dance with one or both of these creatures. You need to soar to the skies or wrestle your way out of the muck. Choose your move and make it.

When the clock is ticking and you’re not certain which creature currently keeps your company, you better assume it’s the devil. Assume the worst, and you’ll be ready for the beast. Assume it’s an angel and the beast might clock you one just when you have your defenses down. If it turns out to be an angel, well he or she will most likely shrug off your misassumption. It’s better to prepare to wrestle and then find yourself taking off, to glide and then to soar, than to expect to fly only to find yourself hurtling back down to rugged earth.

To write under the threat of a deadline is to write with a knife to your neck. For some, however, to write without a deadline is, most of the time, to not write at all.

What do I feel about deadlines? Well, I feel the ever-present knife. I love the feel of making it go away with each word used properly as a talisman of persuasion or deftly as a weapon. Employ a word, a punctuation, a sentence or a paragraph in a crude manner and that sharp knife presses on just a little deeper. Meet the deadline and the knife dissipates.

I don’t want to know what will happen if I don’t meet a deadline. There’s a reason for agreeing to call it a deadline.

Maybe I have met my deadline, after all. The question is whether this will lift the readers up a little bit or whether this will bedevil them. I guess it’s theirs to answer. As for me, I really need an angel — and a deadline. More deadlines, please.

Isabel de la Torre of Parkland, an environmentalist and trained but non-practicing lawyer and journalist, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at tribune@isabeldelatorre.org.

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