Friday, February 28, 2014
The Deadline That Drives Me
In another lifetime--which really means before kids--I worked as a journalist. My career began at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc. in downtown Washington, DC. At the time, the Radio broadcast news and information about countries behind the Iron Curtain before the Internet and Twitter changed the face of revolution. During the late 80s and early 90s, the Radio broadcast in over 40 languages to Eastern Europe and the countries that made up the Soviet Union. I started out in the Russian Language Service of Radio Liberty, which made sense since I majored in Political Science and Russian Language in college and grad school. At first I did mostly administration and translation work for the broadcasters who wrote and recorded the programs. I eventually moved on to actual production of the programs, working the equipment in the studio. For a while, I even had a small part on the air about life in America. Eventually, I was transferred from the Russian Service to the English News Service where I was hired as a correspondent to cover everything in Washington, DC from the White House to Congress to the Pentagon. One of my favorite memories is standing on the White House steps and looking out at all the protestors shouting at me. They probably thought I was someone important when in reality, I was just a lowly reporter covering the news of the day. It was a pretty exciting time for a young writer, and I learned a lot.
I think one of the most useful things I learned as a journalist was the importance of a deadline. There were no do-overs, "I don't feel like it," or "Can it wait until tomorrow?" The news doesn't stop for anyone, so when I had a deadline, it HAD to be met or we had dead air on the radio. After a few hair-raising moments of turning in an article with about four seconds to spare, I learned to embrace the deadline. Deadlines forced me to get organized, stay focused, and push through any writer blocks. Deadlines motivated me, scared me and kept me on schedule. They also helped me become a better writer. Sentences had to be as tight, clean and well-written as I could make them the first time around so I could keep editing time to a minimum. As a result, I became disciplined and well organized. As a writer, those are really useful skills to have.
Deadlines now motivate me, although I admit they still scare me a little bit. I just signed a three-book deal with Carina Press that will require me to produce a book every six months. Can I do it while juggling the day job, the kids, a forthcoming move, and grad school classes? I sure hope so. I'm counting on the deadlines to help me out!
How about you? Do deadlines motivate or deflate you?