Friday, November 8, 2013

Deadlines, Schmeadlines!

I'm not always good with deadlines, especially if they're my own. If I've told myself to get that old furniture up to the attic by Thursday, you can bet it'll still be sitting in the hallway on Friday ... five years later. I can't even trick myself into honoring my own deadlines because I know they're fake. I know I won't punish myself if I miss a deadline that I created randomly just to guilt myself into finishing something. It has to really bother me before I'll take it seriously.

Which probably means I shouldn't be a freelancer. And yet, I am.

Why? Because missing other people's deadlines does bother me. And I'm grateful for that easily poked guilt and shame sometimes. As a Christian, I suppose I ought to find ways to get rid of unwanted or overblown guilt. Christ paid for my sins, right? And yet, too many times it's precisely my sense of never-ending guilt that gets me to do something on time. Either way, it's a good thing my husband and I don't rely on my income to pay the bills. Otherwise, we'd be living in the back of an old 1989 Ford Escort we bought for $200 about a decade ago. (Don't ask—it's now serving as an inadvertent planter out on his grandfather's property a few miles from here.)

As a writer who is not writing for a newspaper (deadlines!) or a magazine (more deadlines!), I find that my writing comes in fits and starts. (Lots of fits. Several starts. Fewer finishes.) There's only one time of year when I churn out writing consistently, in a way that makes me feel as if I'm a Real Writer. That's always in November ... yes, during National Novel Writing Month.

This is my tenth consecutive year doing NaNoWriMo, and I can confidently state that the combination of discovering NaNoWriMo and also Alphasmart devices in 2004 was a writing epiphany for me. Prior to November 2004, it had taken me fifteen years to write my first novel, which clocked in at a mere 55,000 words. I'd been editing the thing to death. Suddenly, I had a distraction-free writing device and a ridiculous deadline of 50,000 words in a single month.

That deadline was the most freeing thing that's ever happened to my writing. I soared through the month easily, and when I finished that novel a little while later, it went on to place as a top-four runner-up in Jerry Jenkins's Operation First Novel in 2006.

And, for the record, I've hit that 50,000-word goal for NaNoWriMo every year since. Looks like this year will be no exception. Deadlines, it turns out, can be my friends.
 Linda Au’s short humor essays have garnered numerous awards. Two books of her humorous essays, Head in the Sand…and other unpopular positions and Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, are currently available on and 

Linda works behind the scenes in publishing as a proofreader, copy editor, and typesetter. She has worked with publishers such as Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Crown & Covenant Publications, Christian Publications (now WingSpread/Zur), Pegasus Books, and F+W Publications.

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