by Mike Crawmer
Saturday morning I found myself doing something I rarely do—working at home on an office project.
I’ve always tried to separate my work life from my home life. Unlike my stressed out coworkers, I enjoy my life outside the office. That’s not to say I never took work home. When I first started at my job two-plus decades ago, 40-hour workweeks were pretty darn rare. In recent years they’ve become the norm. For one thing, the work is just easier for me—I’ve mastered the company’s arcane products and curious lingo and our devilishly complicated templates. Second, my department’s been creating web-based training courses, the software for which I can’t download onto my home computer. And, third, we just don’t have as much work as we used to—the company’s products have matured nicely, you might say.
But last weekend I had no choice: The workbook had to be ready by noon Monday for reproduction, and the coworkers who had dumped it on me had waited until the last possible day to figure out what it should contain and in what order. That meant slogging through all 129 pages Saturday, untangling the mess created by others (the very definition of editor, I guess).
Fortunately, deadlines inspire me, and I plowed through the document lickety-split. Then, again, it’s always been that way with me. In high school I put off tackling assignments until the night before they were do. (Typical teen, I assume.) Back in college after serving in the military, I worked full time (the GI Bill helped some, so for that, thank you, taxpayers) while carrying a full course load and reporting and editing for the university’s student daily. The crunch of time meant that I crammed everything in at the last minute.
As it turned out , all good training for my jobs as a beat and assignment reporter, where my continued employment hung on my ability to get the facts and pull them together into a coherent whole in time to make the deadline.
There’s an unfortunate flip side to all that deadline orientation, as those of you who share this trait know: Namely, when you don’t have a deadline, your project can go on and on and on and on. Till either you or the project dies from exhaustion or neglect.
So, I sit at my desk, computer on, staring at the synopsis or the query letter or chapter 1, version 74 of plot outline 3 yet again and realize, I NEED A DEADLINE. It’s not enough to produce a chapter or two each month for the critique group. No, I need a compelling deadline if I am ever to get this WIP beyond the “progress” phase.
Should I make that deadline a date on the calendar or a date with an agent? Or a date with the funeral director, cause I’m as certain as I can be that if my mortal days were numbered, I’d write the best damn book ever—and on deadline!
P.S.—That weekend scramble means I’ll be stuck in a workshop today and tomorrow, so I won’t be able to respond to your comments, sympathetic or otherwise. But, have at it.