Day Three Thought: The Illusion of Deadlines

There is a lie that writers/all kinds of people believe, which is that our life is full of deadlines.  Grad school is great proponent of this lie.  So are day jobs with deadlines. Lots of things have deadlines but your great novel does not.

In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass reiterates again and again that what separates a great book from a mediocre one is pretty simple: the quality of the writing.  This thought is related to yesterday’s, but great work doesn’t really have a deadline, except for what the term implies: write it by the time you die.  (And if you don’t, well, you’ll be dead and it probably won’t matter to you much.) Writing takes a balance of working like there is no tomorrow and working as if you’re never going to die.  Life requires this balance, too.

As a writer, I’m prone to think up phrases like, “By the time I’m 40, I will ______” — fill in the blank.  As an unmarried 30 year old woman, I’ve had to accept the fact that those fantasies I coined up as a kid of being married and having a house by the time I was 20 (I really did believe this!) were, well, just fantasies.  We have no real time frames, no real deadlines for by when our work, our monumental life experiences, must occur.  We don’t know when things will happen.  To think that I will have a book published by the time I’m 35 is an illusion. I can still be a great writer, like Alice Munroe, and not have my first book published until much later.  The New Yorker’s Best Under 40 Series is a toxic pit of lies.  We hear it said again and again, the first thing to kill the quality of your work is to think about how it’s going to be published and when while we write it.  We must rid our minds of these thoughts if we are going to produce great work.  Again, patience and hard work is what creates great work.

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