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?


9 comments:

J Wachowski said...

Holy cow, Julie. You just inspired me--the kids, the day job, a move and grad school? Oh, And I'm gonna write a book every six months, too.
That's deadline-driven Superpowers!
You go, girl!

Anne Marie Becker said...

I love deadlines! Okay, well, maybe not exactly love them, but I'm a planner, and having deadlines helps me get organized and motivated. Congrats on the 3-book deal! You can do it!!

Elise Warner said...

Fascinating blog. I would love to know more about your years as a journalist. You are so right,deadlines can be a major help. Congratulations on the three books.

Rita said...

Congrats on the new contract.The only thing that keeps me from doing things is me.

Diane Burton said...

Wow, what an exciting job you had. What great work. Deadlines keep me going. Usually mine are self-imposed because of my self-pubbed books. Deadlines give me a target to shoot for. I'll add my congrats for your new contract. Best wishes.

jean harrington said...

Julie, To coin a phrase, you opened a can of worms here. I like to think I'm goal oriented, but on the other hand, being locked into a deadline makes me paranoid. When that does happen, I do rally and produce on time, but the interval from signing to producing is a nightmare. Guess the answer for me, at least, is how much stress am I willing to live with? Haven't come up with an answer to that yet, but I'm working on it. And BTW, I agree with Elise, your former job as a journalist sounds fascinating.

Ana Barrons said...

Wow, Julie, how awesome are you! Congratulations on the contract and successfully juggling all the parts of your life -- I'm so impressed!

Marcelle Dubé said...

Wow, Julie--you are very impressive! Congratulations on the new contract (and good luck). And thanks for sharing that snippet of your past. Pretty cool.

Julie Moffett said...

Thanks, everyone! It's interesting to hear how deadlines affect you, too!! :)

May we all meet our deadlines whether they are publisher or self driven!!

Julie oxoxo