When a deadline sneaks up on you

Yesterday at lunchtime I remembered an essay I wanted to write. An essay that was due that day.

It was a submission for a podcast, and if accepted would be turned into a short episode (10–15 minutes). It would be a great opportunity to do early US promotion for my book, Tracking Giants, coming out in May 2023.

I wanted to write about a backpacking trip I took this summer in the Olympic Mountains—my first backpack ever, and my first big trip with a new boyfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

I glanced at my calendar. I didn’t have any pressing deadlines or family commitments for the next few hours, so I decided to go for it.

I banged out a 2500-word draft in a couple hours, then mentally revised it while driving to and from a car appointment.

I entered my revisions and cut excess lines in Google Docs on my phone while lying on the couch after family Halloween dinner and a couple episodes of The Watcher.

It’s a “together” essay—an account of an experience with another person—so I needed to make sure my boyfriend was OK with the content. I read it to him over the phone, and entered a couple corrections he requested. Reading aloud is a great way to test for fumbling sentences, so I made a few more changes while chatting, added a title, then submitted it.

At any point during the day I could have decided not to go for it. I could have told myself I didn’t have enough time to do a great job. I could have submitted my first draft and called it “done” and then been unsurprised (maybe even relieved) when it was rejected. I could have submitted it without sharing it with my boyfriend and then had to backpedal when I realized I’d gotten some things wrong or worse, that I’d shared something I shouldn’t have.

Writing needs to feel possible. I committed to submitting the draft on time, then worked with the time and tools available to me. That’s the spirit that will keep you moving through your writing project, whether it’s your 30-day novel in #nanowrimo or your longer research-driven nonfiction book.

Do I wish I’d had more time to revise? Of course. I looked at my submitted draft this morning and thought about the revisions I’d make now if I had the chance. But I’m so happy that I went for it, and I’m proud of my essay.

It can happen to anyone. Don’t let a deadline sneak up on you! I use an editorial calendar to map out possible essays to write, and possible venues for publication. I tie each submission to a deadline (self-generated or publication-appointed) and set a work-back schedule so I have time to revise.

Your version of “together” might be representing an industry or community. Make sure you allow time to hire a sensitivity reader or line up beta readers.

Happy writing!

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