A sprint to the finish

Hurry, hurry! Time waits for no man (or wee wordsmith).

Take it from me, working to a deadline ain’t good for your heart. It’s bad for your blood pressure, your nerves, and your love life.

More exactly, it’s writing to a deadline that does you in.

But writing against the clock is a great big part of what I do for a living, so I gotta get on. Some copy deadlines are self-imposed and some come from clients, but no matter the source, a feeling of dread and doom descends as soon as the clock starts counting down.

Well actually, that’s not always true. Sometimes I get a frission of fear just because I want to deliver something really special and am bothered about blowing it. Sometimes a deadline gives me a buzz, an adrenaline rush and the fun of a sprint to the finish.

And I do know I can do it, when the chips are down and the stakes are high. Because the practical part of my personality knows the drill. I won’t usually run the risk of agreeing to complete when the timescale’s too tiny. And I’m long enough in the tooth to do the math when it comes to working out words per minute. (Only kidding, I’m a writer for chrissakes, not a world champion speed typist…)

Of course, I do work it out, plan an approach, and manage the time. But unfortunately, that calm and collectedness counts for sweet fanny adams when the timer starts ticking. Call me a panic merchant, but more often than not, I go straight into a tormented tailspin. I fret, fuss and get in a right royal fankle. I convince myself I cannae dae it, that I’ll never make it, that it’s all too much.

My sensible self knows the copy will all come out fine in the end, that the panic will pass, and the job handed in. But until then I’ll be watching the clock and biting my nails. Because for me, it’s not writer’s block so much as watch and wait. The waiting in vain is a pain in the neck, raises the stakes and causes me grief, but I can’t force the writing to come, can’t conjure copy from out of a top hat.

I’ll get in a flap while time marches on, scrawling down notes then scoring them out
I’ll stare into space, or fiddle about
I’ll gaze out the window, or put tea in a cup
I’ll wait and wait for the words to wake up

But wake up they will. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but all of sudden the worry is over and the words have arrived.

Sometimes it’s a torrent I can barely keep up with, sometimes just a dribble forming a slow stream of letters and phrases that need to be channelled and dammed.

All of a sudden I just feel quite keen
Once the mood takes me I’m like a machine
When the muse strikes me I’ll go with her flow
Time will speed by and I’ll go baby, go

I’ll beat the clock, and deliver on time
Then slump on the sofa and demand some white wine