A Reminder of the Awesome Power of the Deadline

It was shaping up as an ordinary morning at The Hired Pens headquarters. I got into work and mapped out a plan for the day. Suddenly, everything changed (cue foreboding horror-movie music).

The phone rang. It was the owner of a small agency that we write for. Yes, I had sent her copy for the print ad she was presenting to the client today. No, I hadn’t sent her copy for the eight Web pages she was also presenting to the client today. Why? Because I didn’t know I was supposed to write copy for those eight Web pages.

The owner of the small agency was understandably not pleased. An underling had apparently forgotten to send me the assignment. We (that is, I) would have to make the best of the situation.

It was 8:45. She was leaving for the meeting at noon. Well, at least I knew how I’d be spending my morning.

Needless to say, the next three and three-quarter hours were a blur. But amazingly, I was able to write six pages of respectable Web copy that the agency could show to the client. (Yes, I was still two pages short.)

Those six Web pages added up to a lot of content — about 1,800 words. That’s much more content than I’m used to cranking out in one morning, never mind several mornings.

The incident reminded me of something I learned as a journalist a few years back: A deadline can be one hell of a motivator.

As a Hired Pen, I might not have any immediate deadlines on any given day. And that can be dangerous — a temptation to plod along without any particular timeline. But when that deadline emerged without warning thanks to the neglectful underling, I was able to snap into action and do my thing.

The lesson here: Deadlines are a great excuse to remain focused and productive. If you find your muse elusive and your mind wandering, set an arbitrary deadline. For example, I vowed to finish this post before a 5 p.m. phone call. Could I have finished it after the call? Sure. But the power of the deadline served its purpose, as it usually does with me.

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