Friday, December 28, 2012

Was That a Deadline I Just Missed?

Football fans know how teams try to avoid surprises by having defensive players play deep, so that they can see any surprise run or pass right away: "Keep everything in in front of  you." Good editors and others who must impose deadlines try to act the same way. Ideally they check in before the deadline just to make sure everything is going OK and to make any necessary adjustments.

For those of us writers and others on the other side of the deadline, what does this imply?

(1) Keep track of deadlines and don't let them sneak up on you. Even procrastinators need to know what they're procrastinating about!

(2) If you see trouble, or know you're going to miss a deadline, keep the editor informed ahead of time. When possible, propose an alternative deadline, and deliver that on time.

The worst thing you can do for your reputation is to keep silent -- even if you're working all the time on the project, no one will know it if you don't say so. Editors are of necessity flexible but they are not mind-readers. (And if social media enable them to read your mind, make sure your posts are what you want them to read!)

Actually I did not discover these facts as a writer or editor, but as a homeowner who does not do his own work. My wife and I soon learned that few contractors show up when promised. (We have our folk-sociological explanations.) Once we happened onto a fellow who called ahead and told us he couldn't make it that day. Needless to say, he was our one and only guy as long as he lived, and we still miss him.

Not knowing what's going on is almost always worse than knowing . . . and not knowing brings out the worst in those kept in the dark.

Harold Henderson, "Was That a Deadline I Just  Missed?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 December 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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