I am thrilled to welcome Sally Koslow as a guest poster here today. Sally is the FABULOUS author of some of my favorite books such as The Late Lamented Molly Marx (my review here) , Little Pink Slips, With Friends Like These (my review here) and soon to be published, The Wander Years: A Public Display of Reflection.
Deadlines are a code-red that stress out a writer. They prevent her from seeing the cherry blossoms in spring, the fireworks in summer, the foliage in autumn, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in winter and the person who used to be her best friend, whose birthday she forgot. Deadlines devastate your life. They are the monkey on your back who wakes you at 4 a.m. and pushes you toward your computer. A writer may think she’s learned to joust with a deadline, inventing wily ways to procrastinate, but it’s never a fair fight: if you win you lose, and not simply because you just spent $40 on ice cream pint cozies you found surfing Etsy.
We writers, however, need deadlines. Thou shall honor thy deadline is one of my literary ten commandments, right up there with thou shall not steal another writers’ plot and thou shall not covet your fellow writer’s two-book deal, nor her agent, nor her free intern, nor her MacbookPro, nor her editor who gives prose such an elegant facelift it becomes New Yorker-worthy, nor her luminous review by Michiko Kakutani, nor her publicist on speed-dial to “Today”’s booker, nor her ability to churn out 1000 functionally literate words a day, nor her royalties, nor her foreign sales, nor her donkey, nor anything that is your fellow writer’s. Without deadlines, we’d all still be finishing a seventh grade book report on Jane Eyre, ranting about whether it was absolutely necessary for Charlotte Bronte to blind and maim Mr. Rochester, a character routinely miscast by Hollywood as seriously handsome when he’s supposed to be, as Larry David might say, meiskeit. Directors, have you never heard of Russell Crowe?
Deadlines are the most hideous reality of being an author. They are also a blessing. Deadlines force us to tease whole sentences out of our torpid brain, and to get to the two best words in the manuscript: The End.
Today I met an important deadline. After three novels, I’ve been dithering all year on my first full-length work of non-fiction, The Wander Years: A Public Display of Reflection (Viking,) for which I interviewed countless (because I’m too tired to count them) drifting adultescents as well as their stupefied parents who wonder when their Snookums will stop couchsurfing in Kazakhstan and get a job, an apartment and a life. Writing this book has not always been kick-ass fun. I’ve had to track down resources, play phone tag, transcribe interviews, crunch numbers, tax my mind to analyze and from this flotsam and jetsam, weave a manuscript of which I could be proud. The project seemed as if would never be finished and then… it was, at least for now. My agent will surely have notes, as will my editor. But those realities don’t diminish the free-at-last feeling that comes from wringing out the final paragraph and hitting “send.”
This afternoon I wanted to celebrate meeting this deadline. Despite decades in Manhattan I remain a daughter of the Midwest, which means I opt for modest merrymaking. I bought a pink dress made of recycled fibers, took myself for a run and roasted a chicken, all with a smile on my face. But the best reward was the exhilaration. I regret that there isn’t a word, even if it’s in German, that means “joy experienced upon completing a book.” Buchenschriftfreude?
Huzzah! I made my deadline! I recommend it.
What are you reading and where are you going?