Thursday, February 01, 2007

freelancing and the dangers of deadline joie de vivre

The life of a freelancer can be a little Beat the Clock at times—particularly at COB on deadline day. It’s a little like preparing a Thanksgiving meal: you gather, prep and cook, everything motoring along, until you realize that all the side dishes are ready, but the thermometer in the turkey leg reads 125º. Or you forgot cranberry sauce. Or, oops, you just dropped the dang apple pie. There it is, on the floor in smooshy clumps.

That’s when you reach into your back pocket for two things: experience and faith. Experience: you bring out more crackers, cheese and wine until your turkey’s cooked. And, because you always have extra pies, one less is no big deal—or decide on plan B: canned fruit for dessert! (Everyone’s so full after the meal it doesn’t matter anyway—especially if you’ve kept the wine glass full.) Joining experience is that little voice that cries out, it’s all good! (i.e. faith), despite evidence to the contrary.

And so it is with deadline day. One thing experience tells you is that the clock ain’t gonna stop, and last minute crises will occur, necessitating the Murphy’s Law-esque formula: divide the time you think you have by two, and subtract 25 minutes from that. Then, you call in favors from your muse. The lightning bolt of insight or the Good Transitions Fairy.

I now have several monthly writing gigs, each with its own indelible deadline. The last half of any given month is a crazy juggling act, and the first half is crash-and-burn time. And like many freelancers, I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to the chemicals that arise from frantic, last minute ace-in-the-hole-seeking. Trouble is, the excitement raises the bar on joie de vivre expectation, and makes the quotidian workhorse of slowly tapping out a novel almost insufferable.

I guess what I’m admitting to here is that unless I mitigate the mania with a little bootstrap discipline, those novels are going to grow cobwebs in my hard drive. I've got to start pulling meat off the carcass and make some turkey soup. Or something.

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