The dream of a new writer is to have all the time in the world to revel in their novel or nonfiction book. To lay back in languid luxury as thousands of teeming fans send messages of adulation throughout the world.
Then you wake up and find out the writing life is not that idyllic.
Most writers labor under a deadline that was agreed on at the time of their contract. Or a deadline self-imposed as part of their own rigorous planning schedule.
But then life interrupts.
The Interruptions of Life
Everyone experiences disruption that throws off a carefully planned to-do list or calendar. Did you plan for that trip to the ER for a family member before it happened? Of course not. Or when the air conditioner in your office goes out and the temperature outside is well over 100 degrees? Or when all the websites you manage are not working because the server ran out of disc space without any notice? What if all three happen on the same day? That was my experience earlier this month.
Separately, they are challenges. Combined they can be rather distracting from that day’s to-do list. Need I say that was an understatement?
Tip of the Iceberg
Each of you have similar stories. Chemotherapy treatments. Children with difficult physical challenges. Sudden illness, either personal or family member. Unexpected death of a loved one. Loss of job. Longtime relationships explode–friendships, spouse, or children. Carpal tunnel. Evacuation notice received due to fires. Back problems mean being unable to sit long enough to type anything meaningful. Mold found in the walls of your home. Family pet with a terminal diagnosis. The latest paralyzing news cycle. This list could go on. (And then COVID-19 happens.)
And you have to be creative in the midst of it all. You are finally able to steal away and sit in front of your screen. You try to clear your mind and get back into the book that is due in 30 days and you have 35,000 more words to write. Your mind sternly says, “Be brilliant–now.”
It feels impossible.
Are You Alone in All This?
Can we agree it is not a matter of “if” but of “when” this happens? It can be debilitating emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
There is a reason why it is important to be part of a group of people who care for you, whether family, church family, or your writing community. You should not try to bear the burden alone. Galatians 6:2 reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” There is the old saying that a burden shared is a burden cut in half. It is so true.
Reach out to those you know, and let them know of your trials. Not to engineer sympathy but to truly ask them to pray for you and support you in your time of need.
God wasn’t surprised by your circumstances. In fact, He has been there for you all along. First Peter 5:7 reads, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
This should be a general principle in all of life, wouldn’t you agree?
But What Does the Writer Do?
While the above reminder can be a balm, it doesn’t solve the deadline problem does it?
I highly recommend you talk to your agent (if you work with one). For one thing, we truly care about your well-being. No, you are not bothering us with trivial stuff. We genuinely want to know.
If the current challenge becomes an ongoing one and will cause inevitable delays in making that deadline, you definitely want to have your agent involved.
We can talk with your editor and see if the schedule can be adjusted. Usually the publisher is amenable to creating a mutually agreed deadline extension. But be careful not abuse the extension.
Please don’t wait until the day before the deadline to tell your agent or editor that you can’t meet that date. If it means only missing by a day or two, that might work, but not with the surprise news that you won’t be delivering the manuscript for another three months. Publishers work on regimented production schedules with key tasks throughout the process that must be met or a book will not be published on time.
Why is that a big deal? Back in my publishing days at Bethany House, we had a book that was late to the market by over a month due to an author not returning the final galley on time. Unfortunately, advertising had been purchased in a major chain’s catalog. Because the book wasn’t available when the catalog was mailed to consumers, that chain fined the our company thousands of dollars for lost revenue. Those folks don’t play around!
Patterns of Disruption
A publisher understands life’s interruptions. But if a particular author misses deadlines consistently, they start getting a reputation; and it’s not a good one. I once heard an editor exclaim, “What’s the point of a deadline if it is always ignored?” The joke is that the word “dead” is in the word “deadline” for a reason!
Treat the deadline with respect. You will be simultaneously treating your editor and your publisher with respect.
You are not alone. (1 Peter 5:7)
Your situation is not a sob story no one wants to hear.
Share it with those who support you.
Reset the schedule, and factor in possible delays.
Don’t let the enemy tell you it cannot be done.