Deadlines seem to hover and loom. They are rather insistent, and as time ticks, they can become bayou mosquitoes buzzing around your head. You might swat at them, and they may dodge around bit, but ultimately they remain steadfast. Deadlines are structure that contains a writer’s imaginal energies. They allow the writer the freedom to create, and insist that their efforts result in a product of creation. Deadlines are kissing cousins to the writer’s editor-brain, that half of part of the brain that all writers must insist go out for tea while they are in the process of creating, the half that they must invite back inside to help them sculpt their work into art.
The word deadline made its debut as a written word in 1864 finding its roots at Fort Sumter, the largest Confederate military prison in the American Civil War. It was reported that “seventeen feet from the inner stockade was the ‘dead-line,’ over which no man could pass and live.” (Lossing, 1868) The term morphed and found its way into newspaper jargon by the 1920s where its common meaning evolved to indicate a time limit. It’s no small wonder that a certain degree of angst companions this word for writers today.
Postscript: On Wednesday, I wrote my blog entry. On Thursday, my blog entry date, I was very busy and having completed my blog entry I did not think about it once. On Friday, driving home from work, panic rose (i.e., “dead line”). This Monday, Monday morning, my blog is appearing. I am a lesson for all writers everywhere.