The miracle of a deadline

If you have followed my blog, you probably have seen this black banner I occasionally have flashed this year in moments of shameless self-promotion.

As the first day of autumn and the beginning of the fourth quarter began to approach, I started to sweat a little. I have made no secret of the fact that the banner is a tease for a book I have titled Jeep Thompson and the Lost Prince of Venus, and I have been plunking away at the story — my first novel in (ulp!) nine years — for quite some time now.

Suddenly I have less than four months to make “Coming in 2021” a reality, so I’d better finish the book, right? So Wednesday, just for chagrins, I arbitrarily set a deadline: The Lost Prince will be released Nov. 26, hell or high water.

I have been making deadline for 46 years, first in the radio news business and then in newspapers, so I know the power of a deadline. You don’t NOT read the news at six minutes past the hour, and you don’t NOT publish the Friday paper. You make deadline, whether the stories are perfectly polished and Pulitzer-prize-ready or not. That’s just the way it is.

I don’t know why I hesitated to set a specific deadline until now. But I know this: After I set the Nov. 26 deadline for Jeep, I sat down and banged out the next 2,000 words. I can count on one hand the number of sessions where I’ve done 1,000 words at a time before. The miracle of the deadline is that I now know that the words have to flow, and flow now.

I also committed to finishing two other novels that have been semi-stalled for a long time, and I assigned dates to those, too. What do you know? Driving home from the day job Thursday afternoon, I suddenly had insights about both stories that had me thinking, “OMG, OMG, OMG, I have to get home and write those ideas down!”

Actually, I sort of lied two paragraphs ago: I do know why I hesitated to set a specific deadline until now, and even I’ve told you why before. In the past when I announced I would release a book on such-and-such a date, I have blown past those deadlines with no book in sight. There has been some sort of psychological block that kept me from treating the side-hustle deadline with the same iron-clad respect I have always treated day-job deadlines.

But this time, when I said, “OK, Jeep comes out on Nov. 26, and then the next two will come out on these dates,” something tumbled into place and I realized I’m serious this time. We will all know on Nov. 26 how serious I really am, but I feel more confident this time for some reason.

And so, I have created a new black banner.

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