Saved by the Deadline

First, let me just admit that I hate working to a deadline. Unlike several writers I know, having a looming must-submit-by date does not improve either my creativity or work ethic; it just makes me lose sleep. So usually I try to complete assignments well ahead of time.

But now that I’ve finally sent a 200+ page book to press and can take a deep breath again, I’m reminded of the value of a firm, non-negotiable, date of completion. Because the deadline was the only thing that saved me from the perils of too much perfecting.

I’ve been working at a feverish overtime pace on this project (a sailing how to manual) for several months, and I’ve really enjoyed the entire process. (More about that in a moment.) Here’s a quick summary of the basic steps:

1. Edit text
2. Place each chapter into book template, flow around graphics
3. Revise, send to client for approval
4. Incorporate additional suggestions
5. Create index and table of contents
6. Create printer-ready PDF, upload

Simple, right?

In actuality, steps 3 and 4 were repeated over and over again — because the client and I were so excited about the project. With every revision, we could see more changes we wanted to make (big, small, or usually somewhere in between) that would make the whole thing so much better… and those changes would then beget several more, as text was reflowed and pages were added or subtracted and the perfect graphic was finally located. Finally, only the deadline saved us from trying to build a perfect book.

Maintaining Perspective

The larger the project, the more important it is to consider what’s really going to make a difference to the overall quality. There are always improvements that could be made: text could be more logically ordered, a diagram could be tweaked again to better explain a point, a photo could be found that illustrates the exact situation more clearly than the one already in place. Without a firm deadline, there would’ve been no easy way to decide when the thing was really finished.

We’ve produced a book I’m really proud of, but there are still more changes we could’ve made. Just as there is no way to sail a perfect sailboat race, there is no way to produce a perfect book. So when does good become good enough?

The answer is: When the deadline arrives.

If you liked this post, you can read more about freelancing and writing and boats on my blog, Where Books Meet Boats. Thanks!

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