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The Tortoise Straps on Ears

I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm "the tortoise" when it comes to writing. I don't sprint to my deadlines but rather keep up a methodical pace by writing a small number of pages per day, five days per week. This gives me "think time," the chance to edit as I go, and an opportunity for some kind of balance in my life. As a long-term strategy, it's worked well for me, though I know plenty of blind-panic deadline maniacs who procrastinate for months before completing their books (often late) in the white heat of marathon sessions.

If the "hare" styles works for you, I don't knock it, but I'd personally find it crazy-making. Except that I've agreed to an uncomfortably-short deadline. Since I absolutely cannot be late (we're really cutting this one close as it is), nor can I stand to be late (I was the annoying Hermione-type in school, who turned in papers a day early), I've discovered the "twin ears" needed to put this tortoise into hare mode: a desk calendar and simple division.

That's my low-tech secret. First I took my deadline and subtracted three weeks from it (though I would prefer a full month) for feedback and editing. Then I estimated the remaining pages and divided by the number of weeks, then divided again to get a per-day count needed. Then I marked the calendar with "P=" for each day's projected page count. Below it, I have "A=" for the actual page count. I scheduled in a couple of days off to attend to unavoidable chores (waving to IRS) and maybe one or two R&R days, which can be used as catch-up days as needed.

What I found was that my usual five pages a day plodding pace will work, if I stick religiously to this plan. I won't feel panicked if I can see that I'm on course. I won't get to have a lot of fun either, but since it would be spoiled by the threat of missing the deadline, I can live with that for the next couple of months. And afterward, I've planned a short vacation to "refill the well" before jumping into the next project.

I don't think there's any right or wrong way to handle deadlines (so long as you do). The important thing is learning your own working style, your strengths and weaknesses and tolerances, and going with what's doable for you.


Joni Rodgers said…
Go, girl! (That little bunny tail looks great on you.)
You know, that's what Hugh Heffner always said about me. :)

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