Saturday 23 September 2017

The deadline: sword of Damocles or writer's salvation?

I'm a self-confessed last-minuter. Homework, exam revision, holiday packing, you name it. And my displacement activities are beyond ingenious.

Therefore, I work best under pressure: give me a deadline, and I'm on it. So writing a regular newspaper column has been an education. Over the last three years, I have contributed thirty-six dog articles, plus a short story, to our local community newspaper. 

Having blagged my way into Issue 1, I've been lucky enough, thanks to an accommodating editor, to have carte-blanche over length, content and accompanying photographs. Writing about your lifelong passion, though, can be self-indulgent. Thus I began with a burning desire to pour it all out, relevant or not, spread the word and Inform my readership. Those early articles were too long, too detailed, often wandering off-topic. I was precious about trivia, but quickly learned to temper my enthusiasm, fine-tune and cut to the bone. It's surprising how spreading your material thinner, enables you to re-shape and re-use it, shake it up, change the perspective and think outside the box, so that each piece, although shorter, is fresher and sharper, hopefully hitting the right spot with readers. (And this being a small town, I get plenty of feedback!)

A monthly column, you're thinking? Doesn't sound too arduous. Except that the combination of pantser and perfectionist produces its own kind of stress: that looming deadline focusses the mind. Although my overall theme is that of Dogs, every piece is a new challenge, a fresh voice, which must, nevertheless, harmonise with the whole composition. I have written on many topics from the serious to the scatalogical, thoroughly enjoying the process of construction.

I'm not paid for my efforts, but the skills and experience I've gained have been invaluable. I couldn't have achieved them without, you guessed it, those Deadlines. And I haven't missed one yet!

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