Deadlines and Lifelines

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, `Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

Of course you all know that’s from the opening of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a great set-up. Alice, the human, is feeling sleepy, stupid and lazy. The bucolic wildlife is racing around with important appointments.

It’s clearly unnatural, a rabbit with a watch, running late. That’s how we know the world is turning upside-down. If the rabbit was chewing on daisies and Alice running late, that’s perfectly natural.

Or is it?

Allison posted an interesting blog the other day about the struggling writer and spousal support. Not necessarily financial support, though that’s part of it. More the whole “does he support your writing” question.

And, yes, this is going to be totally about women writers and their male companions.

One thing Allison mentioned is the spousal deadline. This is surprisingly common. I can think of five women offhand whose men have “allowed” them to try the writing thing for a given amount of time, after which, if they haven’t succeeded, they must stop.

No, not all of these women are writing instead of working, though some are.

No, not all of these women are unpublished; they just aren’t necessarily raking in the money.

I suspect this comes from a number of things. Our culture and the male members of it, in particular, are heavily fixed on goals and deadlines. It’s possible these guys think they are being supportive, by helping to create an outside deadline, a framework for measuring success. I think there’s also an element of the husbands feeling like they need to curb the frivolous activities of their wives. Don’t tell me that’s not true: I’ve heard men say it.

We do it to ourselves, of course, too. One gal I know gave herself a year to become a successful writer. Yes, that’s from typing her first word. When she didn’t make her goal, in a fit of despondency she asked me how long I’d given myself.

As long as it takes,” I told her.

As I’ve mentioned, everyone right now is about NaNoWriMo. A writing friend asked me if I was participating and I told her I don’t need more pressure in my life. She said she does — she needs the motivation. She is also one who’s published with an epress, has two young children and whose husband has asked her to stop. A big craze right now is a program called Write or Die. It’s a program that monitors how fast you’re typing and buzzes you if you slow down. If you stop, it will actually start deleting your text.

It all comes down to the eternal question of how you measure success, I suppose.

It was funny to me, the friend who asked how long I’d given myself, because I’ve already acheived some writing success by several measures. Not ones that she thought were relevant, but ones that are important to me.

I live my life by deadlines. As most Americans do. My work deadlines are the kind that, if I don’t make them, I can jeopardize a $24 million contract. For me, writing is a different world from that. I can see a day when, if I’m making approximately my salary by delivering a book on time, then that deadline will matter.

Until then, I’m a fan of write and live.

3 Replies to “Deadlines and Lifelines”

  1. Whee, a tag with my name! *beams*

    I need the deadline. Need it. I have Write or Die, but I don't always use it – but the NaNo thing has been good for me. I really needed something to push me past the hump I was at. I'll slow down after November and reassess, but I feel better about where I am right now, and that's all that matters. 🙂

  2. and that's where deadline are good for us, to get us over the hump. yes, feeling good about the writing is all that matters!

  3. I may do the occasional bitch (is it okay to say "bitch" on your site??) and moan session about the hubby and rather or not he is truely supportive of my choices in life, Bit in all actuality, like Mynfel says, I am a good wife, and my hubby is a good hubby, even if it "appears" that he is not always listening to me drone on and on about something writing related…

    He has never, and I dont believe he ever would, give me a deadline in which to "succeed" before demanding I give up any dream I have.

    Like you say Jeffe, deadlines have their place and do serve a purpose, but like all things, they should be used appropriately and in moderation.

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