Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Valleys, Mountains, and Safe Landings - Part 2

Sharon Wildwind

I am so grateful to my husband/wife/spouse/partner/kids for learning to survive on cold pizza/respecting my closed office door/being able to amuse themselves when I was on a deadline.

Strike whichever is inapplicable. In one form or another, I’ve seen this sentence in the acknowledgment of dozens of books.

If you’re a writer, you’ve either been there or soon will be. Deadline. That word has a wonderful way of concentrating the attention. In this second blog on the kinds of time a writer needs, let’s talk about the time we need when we are climbing that mountain called a deadline.

Just like last week, the first thing we need is time to sleep. Those of you who have face deadlines are now rolling on the floor laughing because you know that sleep is the first casualty of deadlines. I’ll catch up later, you think. Just let me exist on three hours of sleep a night for the next couple of weeks and then I’ll go to bed and sleep for a week.

Um, the body doesn’t work like that. Research has shown that you can’t recover lost sleep, but you can put deposits into a sleep bank by pre-sleeping. So if you know or even have an inkling that a deadline will zoom down the road at you in a couple of weeks, go to bed an hour early or get up an hour later, or take a nap during the day. Every extra hour of sleep that you rack up goes into the sleep bank for withdrawal at deadline time.

Deadline preparation includes pre-everything. Take time to pre-shop for all those personal items you don’t want to run out of at ten o’clock at night. Make time to pre-cook (and freeze). Pre-make a list of no-cook/little cook meals and post it on the refrigerator door. Most of all make time to pre-pare your friends.

Good people, in healthy relationships, love to help. Good people in healthy relationships may have no clue how to really be helpful, so you might have to prime their pumps.

First of all, take time for a little private soul searching. Who do you know who meets both criteria: “good people” and “healthy relationship”? Be honest. If you love your sister dearly, but there are issues, deadline time is not the time to rely on her for support. If you have a friend who resembles a remora (a sharksucker fish with an appendage to take a firm hold against the skin of larger marine animals), a voicemail message a la Jim Rockford, may be in your best interests.

“Hi, it’s Sharon. The Wicked Witch of the West and I are on a horrendous deadline until the end of October. Call the witch’s castle after Halloween and we’ll do coffee.” Tip: set your available date a week later than you think it will be. Maybe my deadline is really October 22, but I don’t have to tell anyone that. And I know I will be able to use the extra time to decompress.

When you’ve whittled the list down to a few good, healthy people, ask each of them for something specific. “I’m heading for this horrendous deadline. Could you …
… bake me one of your wonderful apple pies?
… call me once a day for the next two weeks and leave an encouraging message on my voice mail?
… go to the library for me once a week and leave the trashiest romance novels you can find in my mailbox?
… come to my house Tuesday at 12:30 and force me to go with you for a quick lunch at Gobbles?
… go walking with me for a half-hour every afternoon at five?

Excuse me for a minute, while I take off my writer’s hat and put on my nursing cap. Yes, I still have one. It makes me look like a sailor on shore leave. Here’s the straight gen on five healthy deadline habits:
-- For every cup of coffee or tea you drink, drink one cup of water, too. At the very least, this will force you to take bathroom breaks more often.
-- Every hour, work for 50 minutes, and then get up and move for 10. Set a timer if you have to, to remind you to do this.
-- Nibble on raw vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Unless, of course, you have an allergy.
-- Some people can write with music in the background, some people can’t. But listen to music every day.
-- Turn the television off. Really off. Leave it off. “Background TV is an ever-changing audiovisual distractor that disrupts a child’s ability to sustain various types of play. [It] is potentially a chronic environmental risk factor affecting most American children.” ~Marie Evans Schmidt, research associate, Center on Media and Child Health. Boston’s Children’s Hospital, July 2008. If television is bad for children, it’s gotta be bad for the creative child in all of us.

Above all, remember that deadlines are temporary phenomena, like tornadoes and strobe lighting. You will get by, with a little help from your friends.

Quote for the week:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
~Douglas Adams, English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 - 2001)


Sheila Connolly said...

I'm loving these posts. I particularly like the "pre-sleeping"--does that include naps? What about napping in the bathtub (that's multitasking)?

What I find hard to handle is the subconscious or low-conscious stress that accompanies a looming deadline. It doesn't go away, awake or sleeping (if you can sleep). It doesn't really go away until about a week after you've sent off the book and you've managed to detox or whatever. And then you're still thinking, I could have said this better...

J.P. Hansen said...

"my nursing cap. It makes me look like a sailor on shore leave." This is hilarious. And so true. I never thought about nurse's caps that way. They are a strange breed, aren't they? I looked up the history. They began as a way to keep the nurse's hair back and were based on a nun's habit.

BV Lawson said...

Looks like you've made your deadline(s) with your sense of humor intact. Of course, a good dose of Douglas Adams is better than most medicine ("Hitchhikers Guide" should be required reading by all sentient life forms). FYI, the hubster stayed up all night last night working on a radio project needed this morning. He'll appreciate your blog, too (when he wakes up from his nap).

Anonymous said...

Sheila, pre-sleeping absolutely includes naps. Naps in the bathtub may be drowning not multi-tasking.

BV, tell your husband to tune in next week for what to do after you finish a project.