Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Importance Of Hitting Deadlines

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. - Douglas Adams

I hate being late. Really, it goes beyond mere pet peeve. And I absolutely hate missing a deadline.

Like this one.

This post was supposed to be up, oh, nine, ten hours ago? Something like that. So you can imagine when I woke up, yelled, "Shit!" and scared the dogs, who then proceeded to jump on my head.

All 160 pounds.  The dogs, not my head.

And then I spent twenty minutes trying to figure out what to write about. So I thought I'd write about deadlines. It's funny where we find inspiration. For me it's in panic.

Anyway, the point is that missing deadlines is bad. It's unprofessional, anxiety inducing and gives you gout. Okay, maybe not gout, but I wouldn't be surprised.

We've all done it. Missed our homework, screwed up in a project, been a week late to work after waking up from binge drinking Thunderbird and wondering how we ended up in a Shanghai brothel next to a cabaret singer named Pepe Von Bulow.

But there's a balance to maintain. Sometimes the work simply isn't done. Sometimes it's not as good as it could be. Nobody wants to turn in crap even if it's on time. I missed a deadline turning in my second book to my publisher. There are reasons, sure, but they all come down to excuses. It was late, I got an extension and I hit the second deadline.

Was it the best it could be? I don't know. Was it the best I could deliver? I think so. I sent it out to beta readers, got some feedback, made some changes. I'm not entirely happy with it, but it had reached the point where I honestly didn't know what else to do with it. I don't think it's perfect, but I do think it's good.

There's a saying, "Perfect is the enemy of good." The problem with perfect is that it doesn't exist. Particularly in books. Tastes are so subjective and quality is so often conflated with personal preference that you're never going to hit that mark for everyone.

If you spend all your time trying to make something perfect you're never going to finish it and chances are you're going to overshoot the mark. So focus on making it good, not perfect. Let it have flaws. Chances are you can fix them later. And if you can't, well, sometimes them's the breaks.

I'm not saying don't do your best work, but I am saying don't shoot for an impossible standard. Every time you look at your previous work you're going to find something you want to change. Stop it. It's not going to serve you. At some point you just have to say it's done and turn the damn thing in.

And really try to get it in on time. It cuts down on the panic.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

I recognize most of that panic although--for the record--I have never woken up in a Shanghai Brothel not know how I got there. Feels a bit like a character flaw now that I think about it.

Great post, whether dashed off in a rush or carefully crafted over hours!

Michael Wiley said...

A great post -- good thoughts and good advice -- Stephen. And I've got to say, I'm a big fan of Pepe Von Bulow's cabaret and of just about any Chinese-French fusion.

Maureen Hayes said...

Witty post that anyone an relate to (author or not). Hope those dogs didn't hurt too much, although maybe the 160lbs. On the head may account for the Shangai Brothel memory?!

Thanks for the smile!