Deadlines

When I was 15 or so, an editor of a local newspaper came to school, she wanted articles written for a teens’ supplement her paper was starting. I went to a meeting she called for, listened and spoke little and my invisible self studied her more than I studied her words. Then I was a little less rebellious than I am now, and the drab articles that she asked for gave me ungoverned useless artistic license. But as she was leaving, she stood and said, “And now you will submit this by?” – and as all such open ended questions, she met with no answer, whereupon she set an arbitrary date, and then she said a few words of which I’m thinking of now: “Nice. A deadline. A deadline helps you to perform better, don’t they?”

Since that was another open question, nobody spoke, people thought. I thought. And I’ve thought about that a lot. Deadlines don’t help me. Not at all. If someone comes to me and tells me, you’ve got to complete this project by such-and-such a date, my brain stops working unless I can convince myself that the project isn’t so important or that I like it. There is the dreary comforming bit of it all where one should always do as (or better than) one’s neighbours, in every aspect of my life. Deadlines make the thing most alive in me, dead – I always tend to put off everything that I have to do. If I have to have deadlines, I’d rather have them at the end of a month than at the beginning of another, I’d rather complete a piece and submit it on November 20th than on December 1st.

I suppose there are people who are helped by deadlines. I suppose, in some small way I too am helped by them, and I don’t notice it since I arrange my life so that most of my deadlines are flexible. If it were an absolutely rigid one, my short-term burst would take care of problems, but then I’ll vomit after the impetus. Deadlines and me don’t mix. I wonder what that says about me.

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