How does a creative person perform to peak potential when strict deadlines demand 2,000 words by Friday? I know there are writers who have the discipline to rise early, go directly to their offices, and passionately produce a poem, chapter, or short story by lunch. I have the concentration of a deranged ferret, and I’m easily distracted or I'm working on a sassy essay about the humor of elder care while writing a novel about the dramatic angst of greed and betrayal. But, now it’s my goal to focus on producing more coherent content before my eyesight fails, my fingers are too gnarled to fumble on the keys, and I forget where a preposition is at (and to never end a sentence with one.)
During my career, I've written for television news, newspapers, magazines, advertising clients, and corporate communications. The shortest turnaround was for a daily television news program, but the stories were only 30 seconds long so the text wasn't much more to write than who, what, why, and where. The longest assignment was for a non-fiction book, but the intensity and reward were much greater.
My contract in February of 2007 with Adams Media for Menopause Sucks required me to write and submit 70,000 words by June 30. I dabbled and researched through the spring, and didn't begin Chapter One until April. But during May and June of that year, I wrote and edited almost 12 hours a day until I met the deadline. Then I waited, somewhat impatiently, until the book was published and released in August of 2008.
As many students do, I honed my last-minute, burn-the-midnight-oil skills in college when I would start a term paper around midnight before it was due the next day. My manual typewriter was reliable in the wee hours of the morning, and I never had to worry about a power surge erasing all my text. Now I rely on computer features that allow me to check spelling, research synonyms, copy and paste, and find and replace. Also, the word count is always there to remind me to keep going or stop now, please.
I recently enjoyed a short story class taught by local author, poet and film maker Ken Rodgers. We were assigned to write five short stories in five weeks. I proudly presented my story every Monday, but now the class is over and I haven’t written another story. I’m trying to focus on setting my own deadlines so I continue to write. And, who knows what great stories are just waiting to be written if only I would sit down, turn off the worldly interruptions, open my imagination, and connect my brain to my fingers? Today’s goal: 1,000 words before cocktail hour.