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The Joy of Deadlines
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Douglas Adams is supposed to have said that he loved deadlines; loved the sound they made as they went whizzing past!

  I love this quote, but I do, in fact, also love deadlines.  A doctor friend and I recently tried to analyze why one person likes them and another finds them repressive and even counter-productive.

I've never been the sort to wait until the last minute to do things.  In college, if I knew a paper was due in six weeks, I roughly estimated how much of it I would need to do each week, and then got it done that way.  Beloved Husband, on the other hand, wrote his master's thesis three days before it was due, and talked me into staying up all night to type it for him!  

I've just completed two novels on spec (which means, if you haven't been there before, "on the speculation that I will sell it.")  My previous books, after the first one, were all written under contract.  There are things to commend both situations, but I find, now that I'm under contract again, that I prefer it.  I didn't really doubt--except in my darkest moments--that someone would buy Mozart's Blood.  I mean, opera singers, vampires, how can you go wrong?  My latest, The Sapphire Estate, isn't yet on the market, but I feel reasonably sure someone will buy it.  Still, it's darned nice to know that my next two books are already bought, and barring the complete collapse of the world's economy, will be published in due course.

To my doctor friend, a deadline is a creativity-killer.  He feels that if he is forced to produce something on someone else's timeline, his imagination dries up.  For me, deadlines are organizational. Creativity is a sometime thing, in any case.  A fulltime writer has to be creative every day, whether it's easy or hard.  Deadlines, in my writing process, are all about discipline.

In my musical life, deadlines were a constant.  The concert date was set, the opera would open, the recital was on the calendar!  I had to be ready.  I suppose, with novels, I feel the same.  Usually, I have a year to write a book.  I know that if I write a certain amount every day, every week, every month, I will produce a first draft and have time to revise it (about six times) before it's due.  I've published fourteen books, as of this summer, and I was three months late with one and two months late with another.  That was it.  I was on time with all the rest.  I'm told this is a decent record of timeliness, and I think I'm getting better with practice.

I know there are many writers who, like Douglas Adams, think of deadlines as sort of general targets to aim for.  It seems to me, though, that in today's publishing world, there is less and less leeway.  There are a thousand fine writers who would love to produce a novel for the slot mine is supposed to fill.  If I don't fulfill my contractual obligation, I could miss that window of opportunity.  I definitely don't want to do that!  The pressure of the calendar helps me to keep moving forward, and I think it's part of liking what I do.  

How do you feel about deadlines?  Helpful or hurtful?  Inspiring or terrifying?  Do you often hear that whizzing sound?