Monday, February 20, 2012

[Monday February 20th] 8 Things I Learned About Deadlines

Who wins now? EH!
It’s been a month and I’ve nearly forgotten how to blog, which is funny, cause these days you can’t make me shut up. Work has been a bit crazy and my fingers ache from the constant tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard. Then I had to bounce around doctors for awhile, which further added unnecessary stress [nothing too serious with me] and then came news from the frontier to the West, where mother is working right now. In between all of this I’ve been pretty silent, because I’ve been chasing deadlines.

What advice about deadlines will tell is that you have to stick to them. What advice neglects to say is that you have to be extremely realistic about the number of deadlines or at least I’ve missed the guidebook to deadlines some way along the way. If there is a copy somewhere that no one needs, my e-mail is in my bio [just saying]. The gist of this post right now is that I’ve been an incredibly naughty boy and expected unrealistic things from myself.

As you might suspect already, I want to be on top of everything and it’s not been happening as planned. I edit for Tales to Terrify, I write and I review [though I thought I had stopped for good] and then I have several other big as hell blog initiatives, which more or less have fallen in the background. Top that with a full time job and university and you have yourself a basic recipe for chasing deadlines all the time. Here are the lessons I learned chasing deadlines and failing some times:

1] Write down everything connected to your project and deadlines. Most of the time, you will work in tiny bites of time. Managing fiction for a podcast has taught me that a big project is a clockwork robot rather than a brontosaurus, meaning that it’s a ticking organism with so many parts that take minutes separately, but letting them slip through the cracks of your mind will come back to bite you. This can easily apply to writing, which I learned after forgetting a few stunningly beautiful ways I could have employed in my latest story.

2] Newsflash: Life’s unpredictable, so you’d better learn to predict situations that will suck your time and be beyond your mortal control. Although doing what you love may offset the depression of having a job that suffocates you or [insert anything unpleasant you have to deal with every goddamn day], you have a real life with real people and other real things. Real life doesn’t like to be ignored. Hell to the no, girlfriend. Real life’s like a kitty cat, a bad kitty of imminent doom that poops on your head for no good reason.

If I hadn’t spent two weeks with intense pain, because of a bad back, I’d probably be on time with most of my deadlines. Plans mean nothing, when you are an unwilling component of this sick algorithm that is life. It’s a crucial skill to know how many projects you can undertake, which you are sure you will bring to fruition even if your life crashes in pretty painted flames of devastation.

3] You are not a time table. As much as I’d want to conquer the Internet and have hot men throw their jockstraps at me, I discovered that I can’t do everything. This is the basic mistake that I do time and time again. I assume that just because I have a free slot in my schedule and yes, I do have a schedule, I can put something in there.

So what happens, when you realize that your schedule has tasks that have you type and read for what feels like eternity and your brain says, enough is enough. Naturally, you crave some sort of outlet, be it skimpy books in pink covers [I stopped reading those, when I discovered that the skimpy pink books came only in female fantasy editions rather than gay fantasy ones] or reality TV [either classy and/or campy for me, please] coupled with as many TV series as I can watch. Maybe you are one of those weird people that go outside and talk to people, fleshy bits to fleshy bits. In translation, work will not be done. Work that needs to be done and you can’t complete, because you are exhausted. Plan activities that will allow you to recharge your batteries or I tell you that you’ve got a first class ticket to Burnout Land. PS: It will not be pretty. It never is and it’s the fastest way to hate something with burning passion.

4] You are responsible for your guilt. If you assign yourself too many deadlines, you don’t meet, because you sought to take a rest, you get your high and then what. Guilt that is what. The wrist-slitting guilt that has you all tossing and turning at night, accusing you that your careless ways are what will always separate you from those that have succeeded in their career. So unless you want to flirt with a sharp set of razor blades and set yourself for low self-esteem and failure, why not cut yourself some slack and what you are realistically able to complete as projects.

5] A deadline does not mean waiting for the last possible moment. The Internet is full of memes, where students consider their teacher’s deadline a challenge to see how late they can start with their paper. Don’t be that douche that purposefully starts at the last minute possible. I’ve done this stunt a couple of times and I’m far from proud with myself. Plus, apart from the inevitable guilt you will generate, your work will be sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. So do yourself a favor and start as early as possible.  

6] Don’t expect people you’ve put on a deadline to remember their deadline. Through my work at Tales to Terrify, I learned the hard way that delegating tasks and expecting them to be done isn’t as innocent as it seems. I did that. I trusted the powers that be that everything will be honky-dory and forgot about the deadline. Guess what. This came back to bite me, cause shit happens to the people you collaborate with. They get sick. They get involved in some sort of life conspiracy and the last thing on your collaborator’s mind is your deadline.

7] Talk with your collaborators about updates. If you want to avoid feeling like an idiot, negotiate with your collaborator how you as the one with the request will proceed in regards to the deadline. Set a few check point dates that will ensure that you get all the updates needed without coming off as a panicked, desperate ninny. You also get the bonus of psychologically engaging your collaborator so that even if suddenly something comes up that will cause delays, your collaborator is way more likely to warn you, even though in the greater scale of things your deadline matters. Of course, I’m referring to all the projects that run on good will rather than money. When money is involved, people tend to be a lot more organized.

8] Content first, publication later. To continue my thread, I’ve always started projects even before my involvement with Tales to Terrify, where I relied on people’s content. A normal person would be cautious enough to arrange the deadlines for the contributors long before they are needed. It’s way easier to schedule something that you have rather than something that you have promised to have. I, on the other hand, assume that everything runs on fairy magic, so I had a few close calls, but lesson has been learned. Everything can happen and a good deadline chaser knows that time is a stretchy, gooey thing that runs through the fingers.