I’m sitting on a deadline.
Well, not on it ; it’s still a few months away. I don’t know when it is exactly, maybe late January or mid- February. I could look it up — but I’ll forget it right away. It’s a line and it’s dead and it sucks in everything around it like a big black hole.
Will I die if I cross it without my manuscript neatly tucked under my arm? Of course not, but the monkey tells me I might.
Could I extend it with a phone call? Probably. My publisher seems to like me and will certainly understand. But the monkey won’t let me try.
Am I scared of it? Not exactly. I feel it out there, inching toward me like Sauron’s armies, scorching everything in its path, but I know I need it.
I need it like I need Death itself, forcing me out of bed each morning, saying, ‘make the donuts, write the blog, tick things off your endless to-do list. Time is running out and there’s buckets left to do‘.
When I was twenty-one, I faced the biggest deadline I’d seen so far. My senior thesis was due sometime in April or May. I could see that date, a smoking rut, glowing on the horizon all the way from the middle of my junior year. So I started writing before the summer began, then through the fall, and finally deposited 400 pages on my advisor’s desk in early January. He glowered at me. “Couldn’t you submit this in the spring, like a normal person? I don’t want it hanging around here till then.” I left him with my tome, the responsibility passed.
Deadlines drive me. They drive me crazy. Drive me forward. Drive me to do more and better. So, this coming deadline, I’m pretty sure I’ll come under it and over-deliver. But for now, I’ll just have to feel it tighten around my windpipe every day. Besides, I’ve told myself all along that writing a book about the monkey was just asking for trouble, like writing with a loaded gun by my laptop, that I’d have to wrestle it away from my temple every day.
I’ve gotten loads written. At least I’m pretty sure I have. I type then toss each page over my shoulder into a growing pile. One day soon, I will push them all together, and start organizing a coherent whole. Each day, the monkey tells me that I actually have nothing, that it’s all chaos and crap, and I’m dying to look back and see if he’s right. But some force keeps shoving my head down and my fingers back on the keys.
The monkey says, ‘take a break and write a blog post about deadlines’ and I listen. But now I’m gonna stop and head back to the grindstone.
That deadline’s getting closer and I am surfing its undertow.