May 12, 2014
I woke up today with a familiar feeling of dread. My last and most difficult deadline of the spring looms in three days. I’ll have to hand over a significant chunk of work on my new novel to my mentor at a master’s program in creative writing. I’ll be writing, fretting, revising, worrying, staring into space and writing some more.
It’s not that the monthly deadlines in my program at the University of Tampa are impossibly onerous or that my wonderful mentor is a strict taskmaster. Writing is hard and lonely, and deadlines never wait for inspiration. Sometimes you just have to inch forward with clunky sentences, bad paragraphs and indigestible pages. Then you can make them better.
Deadlines shouldn’t be a problem for me after thirty-plus years in the newspaper business. Daily deadlines and weekly deadlines were a way of life and I can’t remember missing one, or at least an important one. But in my stress-filled dreams, I’m always busting deadlines and one of my toughest editors is shaking a finger and publicly shaming me.
This deadline is probably harder because it’s the last of the semester. I’ll get a short break afterwards and treat myself to a movie, or a book that’s not required reading. I’ll meet the deadline somehow and when it’s over, I’ll feel strung out and breathless, like I’ve run a long, hard race.