My back hurts and head throbs. The lights are too bright; the temperature too cold. Is it the flu? Some as-yet unnamed dread disease? No, it’s just that it’s already 8 p.m. on a Sunday and I have a deadline for my weekly column in a short twelve hours.
I have asked writers I’ve met over the years how they feel about the bane of my existence: deadlines.
“I love deadlines. They keep me motivated,” one giddy writer told me.
Another squealed, “I love writing so much that I’m always turning in assignments two weeks before they are due!”
Sheer insanity, I think, as I flip through the television channels. Who can be happy at the thought of a looming deadline? I look at the clock; 8:30 p.m. Still time to have a snack and maybe read a chapter in that new mystery. By 9 o’clock, with full tummy and unable to find that novel, I pick up a notepad.
“Duck confit, mixed berry coulis, a side of mixed greens wilted with a bacon fat and vinegar dressing, and roasted parsnips.” The meal was eaten two nights ago, but I’m just now forcing myself to write the notes I’ll use to weave my restaurant review.
Week in, week out, who can blame me for stalling? A seven course meal here, a take-out lunch there - each week I have to pen 1000 words about some meal eaten at some restaurant, week after week, year after year. And each Sunday evening I sit quaking in fear that the words won’t flow.
Hmm, writing about the duck has made me hungry again. I wander into the kitchen, wash up some dishes, open the fridge, close it again, and try to decide what I want. A cup of tea? A chocolate something? Cheese and crackers? I fix all three and head back to the living room where I’ve decided to write my review.
I take a few minutes to make myself comfortable on the couch before I realize my laptop is in the other room. Sighing, I flip through the channels and find a movie with Humphrey Bogart.
I’ve seen it before, of course, but feel it will inspire my writing. Yes, I think as I lean back, munching my way through Jarlsburg and crackers, some black and white inspiration will turn my scattered thoughts and incomplete notes into a column for the ages.
Soon, too soon, I go find my laptop and start writing. An introductory paragraph stalls so I dive straight into the appetizers - pan seared scallops, cold lobster salad, carpaccio. Closing my eyes I see the table as it was spread before us on Friday night. I relive the tastes and inhale the scents of the evening. Ah, I’m in heaven.
I open one eye to peer at the clock. If I go to bed now, I can wake at 5 and finish it before deadline.
My husband, a newspaper editor, has a joke,“ A deadline is what you hear when an editor hangs up on you.“ For me deadlines are more deadly than that. I agonize, I moan out loud waking my snoring dog. My chest is tight, my throat dry.
“Give yourself a false deadline of two days before the article is due.”
“Rejoice over deadlines for they mean you have paying work.”
None of that works for me. I breathe deeply. The appetizers and entrees are done. I just need to write up the desserts and slap on a conclusion, rate the restaurant and give a snappy farewell. I take a deep breath and dive in, racing through the molten chocolate cake and the three star rating. It’s not even midnight!
I pour myself a glass of wine with congratulations for a job well done.
Now, that deadline wasn’t so bad, was it?