As writers we often ask ourselves how certain words come to be. Why do we accept them? Let’s take the word deadline, for example? I suppose the line of time dies in that moment when you’re supposed to have something done. Since most of life happens while you’re working feverishly on deadline, why don’t we use the word lifeline instead? It would be all too simple if all life were to pause when you had an article to turn in or a short story to get postmarked or a poem whose final line won’t behave.
When I was in college we (serious) English majors would often discuss the preoccupations of writers. For writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, death was their preoccupation. I must admit that my preoccupations are time and technology. The two are basically twins. Though one is the manufactured cousin of the other, they both relate to time and how we live and relate to it. As an editor, almost everything for me depends on a deadline. Time is the measuring stick for being productive: did so and so get the story in by deadline? And yet, as a writer I rely on a different clock, more internal. Am I an anomaly?
I rarely set deadlines for articles or poems or plays that I’m writing. Usually something physical will happen that lets me know that it’s time to finish that piece. It’s sort of like being bloated at the dinner table; your body lets you know it’s time to stop eating. Similarly for writing, I start to feel like a fish out of water. I’m finding, too, that I like the adventure of staring at a blank white screen for a few hours before a deadline. The writing becomes more messy, more personal, the rewrite stronger. Every writer must find his or her own rhythm. It’s kind of like dancing, not for everybody. What do you think about deadlines?