Do it! do it now!

I would like to think that I am inspired by lightning strikes of genius, or a selfless pursuit of artistry and truth. That the words and ideas and pictures come flowing with little effort.

That would be bunk.

I thrive — or at least, get by — on deadlines.


Civilians wonder how we do it, how journalists deal with deadline pressure. Each day, you cross the finish line, and another one’s looming tomorrow. And in broadcast, you have multiple deadlines (in print, too, if you count late editions).

I am unfazed by deadline pressure. It’s just part of the business.

But it can be tense at times. I’ve found myself yelling for stories or photos or proofs as the clock winds down. My voice getting louder equals you are directly in the path of us having the presses run on time.

Usually, that’s just a little trick on my part to remind someone this is a newspaper and not an illuminated manuscript that monks lovingly prepare over the decades by candlelight.

I remember a few times where I would slow things down, because the tension in the room was counterproductive. If I was hovering, I would back off. If everyone else was shouting instructions, I would calmly walk someone through editing changes. With seven, six, five minutes left to go.

One of the great aspects of daily newspapers is you get to try again tomorrow. Your sins are absolved (for the most part) with each edition. You go home knowing that you’re done, nothing more can be fixed, added, tweaked or otherwise screwed up.

Clean slate after clean slate.

The danger is in rhythm. You can get caught up in the daily, the urgent, and long-term planning goes out the window. You find yourself never making progress because you’re too focused on that day’s edition. It’s true at newspapers as it is at many other companies.

Lazy writers such as myself need deadlines. You’re reading this now because I have to get something, anything posted before midnight and another day goes by unblogged. That’s crazy talk, but that’s my motivation.

If I ever get a book or two done, it’ll likely because some publisher or editor is breathing down my neck for the next chapter. Self-motivation works only if it’s related to fear of starvation or a raving lunatic editor or an unholy amount of personal discipline.

I could break it down into manageable bits, doing a little at a time, never rushing, not waiting until the last minute to get it done. But in my world, that really is crazy talk.


About this entry