dead·line – noun \-ˌlīn\

: a date or time when something must be finished
: the last day, hour, or minute that something will be accepted

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This week and next, I am working under deadline. A big one. On August 1, just 10 days from today, the book manuscript that Ann Kroeker and I have been working on for almost eight months is due to the publisher, T.S. Poetry Press.

The book is about the writing life, and with the irony that often accompanies such projects, I am working harder than ever to try to manage my writing life during this process. Last night, I finally turned the laptop off at 9:30 p.m., breaking from work only three times since 8 a.m. that morning to see wake up the boys, run a few errands, and throw together dinner for Steve. We ate leftovers.

Of course during these intense days of deadline pushing, I have family coming in from out of town, and I need to make a fast trip to Chicago to spend some much desired time with my nephew. A friend I haven’t seen in months visits Saturday morning. And we’ve invited a family from church for dinner on Sunday.

Part of me feels like curling up in a ball and going back to bed. That’s what I did for an hour this morning as I hit the snooze button over and over. It’s also tempting to cancel all the plans and spend every waking hour in the office until the book is done. Neither response feels reasonable, though, not for a sustainable writing life.

I did just decline an invitation from one of my best friends for coffee or lunch next week. And yesterday, I asked a new client if I could wait just a little longer to start his project because I’m working under deadline. The hours allotted to me each day number only 24, just like yours. But in the midst of the writing, I can’t stop living. Not even under deadline.

Although I’ve been writing about one word each week since January (“deadline” is this week’s word, of course), I also have one word I’ve been living into for the year, as well. That word is limit. It’s been a driving principle around many life choices I’ve made with my husband in recent months. “Limit” helped shape the direction of this website. It also helps me evaluate social commitments and writing assignments.

writinglife

If ever there were a limit placed on my life, this deadline would be one. The constraint feels suffocating; the firm date, menacing. What if I’m not done? What if the book’s not ready? But those questions would persist without the deadline, too. They would persist ad infinitum, if I let them. Then where would I be?

I’ve been working with a timer today, setting short, reasonable goals so that tonight I can quit by 6 p.m. and make a suitable dinner for my husband, whose work limits him to regular deadlines as well. Before dinner, maybe we’ll go running. After dinner, we might watch TV. If it’s not too hot, I might talk him into a friendly game of tennis.

I probably won’t get as much writing done stopping at 6 p.m. But a girl’s gotta live, too. Even under a deadline.

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WORD COUNT: 760

Photo above by Kalexander2010, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Design by Charity Singleton Craig. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.