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The Writing Life: Voices of Experience
Bonnie Boots : Deadlines Can Be A Writer's Best Friend

Deadlines Can Be A Writer's Best Friend

By Bonnie Boots

I click the "send" button on my e-mail and my article is instantly transmitted to a magazine. Minutes later, I have a reply from the editor. It reads "Snappy writing and five days before deadline! Thanks, Bonnie. You're an editors dream."

I believe I'm a good writer, but more important, at least asfar as editors are concerned, I'm a disciplined writer. I never miss a deadline. I hear other writers grousing about deadlines, even disregarding them until an unhappy editor prods them. That's a shame, because respecting deadlines can help you mature personally and professionally.

The word "deadline" can be traced back to the Civil War when prisoners were sometimes secured with nothing more than a line drawn in the dirt. Cross that line, they were told, and you're dead! I take deadlines just as seriously. Even during the most trying personal circumstances, I meet my writing commitments. Once, I even wrote a newspaper column as I sat with a dying parent. It was hard, very hard to focus my thoughts and write, but the personal strength I conjured that day translated into writing so powerful it brought my career to a new level.

As I wrote that day I wasn't thinking about winning awards. I was thinking of only one thing: I had to meet my deadline. Writing each word was a struggle. When I'd finish a sentence, I'd rest, feeling like I'd just made it another fifty feet up Mount Everest. When I completed that column, my personal resources were spent. Like a horse that's been whipped to reach the finish line, I was exhausted physically and emotionally and wondered where I'd ever find the strength to write again.

The next week, however, habit kicked in and I kicked out another column. In fact, I never missed a column through one of the most traumatic events of my life. Such is the power of established, disciplined writing habits.

The discipline I developed by always meeting deadlines has served me well both personally and professionally. Personally, it's given me the power to persevere through circumstances that might otherwise have crushed me. Professionally, it's given me a reputation among editors as a writer that can be relied on. I've had editors carry my name with them as they moved from publication to publication, even calling me for work I had no background in, simply because they knew I was one hundred percent reliable.

One editor worked on dozens of different magazines during my association with her, calling me to write about topics ranging from doll designers to antique autos. When I protested I knew nothing about cars, she scolded me, saying, "I don't need a mechanical expert. I have a dozen. What I need is one writer that can actually meet a deadline."

Editors resent having to baby-sit writers, calling to coax, coddle, even threaten writers to get them moving toward their deadline." It's like herding cats!" one editor wailed. Yet, often, that's where an editor's time and energy are spent. Imagine the good impression you'll make by being a writer that's mature enough to take your work and responsibilities seriously. You may have less experience than other writers, but editors will see you as a real professional. You may have less talent than other writers, but editors will see you as something better than genius — they'll see you as a writer that delivers on deadline. •

© 2005 Bonnie Boots. All rights reserved.

Bonnie BootsBonnie Boots is an award-winning writer and designer who says all writers should show off their talent by wearing their Write Side Out! More »

Updated 1/6/14