It’s been a crazy week for me as I’ve been finishing up a deadline. It’s an interesting brand of mayhem for writers. I realize that other jobs come with deadlines—of course. I’ve worked at some of them. Often there is a lot of work done at the last minute, problems ensue, there are moments of panic and then wine is an appropriate treat when the project gets out the door.
This is all true with a writing deadline. But in the novelist’s world, deadlines have some unique facets that don’t always apply in other businesses. First and foremost, perhaps, is that most writers prefer to view the work as a creative endeavor more than a job. We tell ourselves that we are driven to write for the love of it. And this is true. But a deadline reminds us that a business is at stake and we need to coerce our Muses into playing the appropriate role. Deadlines strangle creativity even if they force it into being. They are a double-edged sword that we will curse even as we need them desperately. It’s a rare book that gets written without one.
Writing deadlines force writers deeply into that creative world and it’s a place from which we don’t easily emerge. When I worked in public relations, I could still function in the real world even as I met deadlines. But writing a novel, especially huge chunks of it at one time, requires a retreat from the world. As a deadline approaches, writers can’t think about anything but their story. The story world literally holds us captive and we are stuck there for days on end. My kids might ask me a question about school or appointments or lunches, but there is no telling that my answer will make sense. I definitely won’t remember it later. Because all I’m thinking about is my story and how to make it work.
Writing a large piece of a book at once condenses a very emotional experience. You know that saying, no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader? Well, we often need to delve into emotional places as we write in order to bring authentic feelings to the page. And when we’re doing this day after day, living a roller coaster with our characters, it can make a writer feel a bit on edge as well. We are more easily flustered, frustrated, angered, or moved to tears. It’s not just because we are tired from working hard. It’s because we’re walking an emotional tightrope in our heads and churning up feelings from all parts of our lives—good and bad—to put on the page. You know how a movie can make you cry and experience a sort of catharsis? Picture this experience times one hundred. It’s exhausting!
So, because we are emotionally compromised and actively living in a fictional world, we also fail to buy groceries, forget to clean, forget virtually everything else. It’s a crazy experience I wouldn’t recommend until the last few minutes when we have the payoff of coming up with that perfect ending line and know that another deadline has been met. It’s enough to make us forget the hardship and sign the next contract. Or, in my case, it’s a real reminder that there is no food in the house and I must shop.
Chat with me today on the boards and share with one thing that is sure to drive you crazy this summer? Too many kids in the house every day? Eating dinners on the run because of so many commitments? I’ll give one random poster an advance copy of PROMISES UNDER THE PEACH TREE when my author copies arrive in two weeks.