Why you need to understand the value of deadlines

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Preparing myself for the holiday I’m on right now has reminded me about the value of deadlines…

When you read this column, I will be in Vienna enjoying the sights and sounds of a city that was either the birthplace or burial site of Brahms, Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven. But this is not a travel diary. It’s my paean to deadlines.

Professionals don’t miss deadlines. They just don’t. I’ve been writing this column for more than eight years and apart from my standard week off at Christmas, I’ve missed only one post: when I was in hospital for a week following a stroke.

Sometimes it’s a pain in the posterior to write this. I’m too tired. I’m busy with work for paying clients. I’m bereft of ideas. I’m going on holidays. But I know that boring, wearisome, tedious consistency is what separates the shirkers from the workers, so I try to be consistent.

As well, I know practice inevitably pays some remarkable dividends. After all, without practice, none of us can get better at anything — not exercise, not music, not writing. I’m even a big believer in what’s called deliberate practice which has helped to transform my own writing.

But what impresses me most about deadlines is when I see other people nail them to the wall. I can still recall my amazement when I learned that Jonathan Mann was writing a song every single day of the year.  How does he do that, I wondered? Doesn’t it take a tremendous amount of time? And how on earth did he manage to pull that off when he needed a root canal? (And, he’s doing it still!)

I’m also gobsmacked by my son’s Tumblr, called 42 days of opera.  We’re here in Europe to see him perform in the Czech Republic (in Teplice, a small town northwest of Prague). The post to which I’m linking is from opening night. You can use the arrows at the bottom to scroll to earlier or later entries. (I’m hoping there won’t be any dorky-looking photos of me in future posts!)

Here’s what’s impressed me about his Tumblr. My son, who is a musically gifted bass-baritone (shown above trying to look older and fatter than he is, in his costume for The Bartered Bride) is also dyslexic. His spelling and his grammar are shaky but he doesn’t let this deter him from writing. He knows that this diary of his first international performance will be invaluable to him 20 years from now (even if he doesn’t become a big star, as of course, we hope he will.)

I’m also affected by his ability to plan in advance. He wrote his opening night post before the show because he knew the cast would be going out to party immediately after. Writing usually doesn’t mix terribly well with the fine Czech pilsner, despite what Hemingway may have thought.

Finally, I’m impressed by his ability to work through difficulties. During one of the early days in rehearsal he was terribly sick with a virus. We had an anguished Skype conversation about his headache and nausea and I became alarmed when he reported his illness to the trip manager (I knew he had to be really sick if he was prepared to take that step). Frankly, he sounded so horrible and looked so ill, I didn’t expect him to post that day. But he did, day 14.

Meeting deadlines isn’t easy but it should be a core skill in the quiver of every writer. To be able to pull it off, remember two things:

1)   Don’t make promises you can’t keep. This will not only disappoint other people but you’ll run the risk of demoralizing yourself.

2)   Don’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes.

As Albert Einstein put it: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

14-07-pagesHow do you manage to meet your deadines? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section. (If you don’t see the comments, please go here and then scroll to the very end.) And, congratulations to Sarah Tweedale, the winner of this month’s book prize, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile for her  July 15 comment on my blog. Anyone who comments on today’s blog post (or any others) by Aug 31, 2014 will be put in a draw for a copy of the insightful book 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People, by Susan M. Weinschenk. (The copy is brand new because I had accidentally bought two!)

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