Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day and Other Deadlines

Anybody out there working on taxes today?

It seems appropriate, as this is Tax Day here in the states, to talk about how we all deal differently with deadlines. In addition to the deadline to file taxes and deadlines at work, I've also been working toward a deadline for the revisions on my second book.

I don't deal well with deadlines. I admit it. They stress me out. Always have. Yet many years ago in school, (and no, I won't specify exactly how many years) I found my own way to deal with them. Given that I'm a nervous wreck until said deadline is met, I just meet them early. Like setting your alarm clock a few minutes ahead, I set the calendar a week or two ahead in my mind so I think things are due before they really are. Not that I avoid the stress, I just experience it earlier as opposed to later. I finished my term papers half way through the term. Not to say I didn't rewrite them three times before turning them in. I had nightmares about sitting in class and realizing I didn't have my assignment. We filed our taxes by the first of March because I couldn't take worrying about them. Currently, I'm working diligently to complete my revisions so I can let the manuscript breathe a week then proof it before sending.

Not to say that I've never missed a deadline, but not many. Don't say it. I completely realize this is a neurotic sickness.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, and possibly the sane end, I've had friends, co-workers, and even a critique partner that appear to drift leisurely along, then thrive on that last rush of adrenaline to meet deadlines with thirty seconds to spare. And they do it well. Their stress seems to last a much shorter time than mine.

What worries me these days is that I've got so many things going on in my life, things that demand my attention, that there aren't enough hours in the day. At times I have trouble keeping track of everything. My life has become a juggling act. The day job. Writing. An elderly mom living with us who needs more and more of my attention. This is the woman who taught me to balance my bank statement to the penny. Now I have to help her balance her's. Her doctor appointments. I'm delighted that my boys are both married and mostly self-sufficient, but they still rely on me for certain things. And then there are the grandkids and other family issues I won't bore you with.

Don't get me wrong. I am not willing to give any of this up. My family is the center of my life. Writing is a lifelong dream. And the day job, well it funds it all and I'm too young to retire. Being the white cream in the center of the Oreo is not new to me. But lately I'm slipping. When I'm working on one thing, my brain is spinning, thinking about three others.

Help me out. Surely everyone has to juggle at times. What works for you?


Author said...

Hi, Pam. To answer "what works for me?" - I believe there is no easy answer. When I feel overwhelmed, I pull back for a while. Minimize. Simplify. Then it piles back on. We have to take care of ourselves, otherwise, we couldn't be there for others.

A great topic!

Pamela Stone said...

Thanks for commenting. You are so right. I take mini-breaks at the day job when I get stressed. Walk away. Deep breath. Then go back and try to focus on one thing at a time.

Juliet Burns said...

Well, I'm part of the problem, not the solution. I'm that CP of who waits until the last minute and then stays up 24/7 for 2 weeks right before the deadline and slides into home barely safe. I've discovered I work better under pressure. The magic happens, dialogue is snappier, scenes come together, and everything works out at 3 am the night before the book is due. It is kind of stressful, but like you say, only for those 2 weeks. I always tell myself, the NEXT book I'm going to start early. Next time I'm going to write 2 pages a day and have a month to spare... Famous last words. I do have a lot of other stuff going on. 3 kids still at home, and all their activities, hubby, mom, sisters, friends, household maintaining, plus dropping work on the new book to go back and do revisions on the former one. Those are all excuses. Even when I have time, sometimes I avoid the manuscript and watch TV, or play Solitaire while I THINK about my characters. Shhh...
in fact, I should be writing right now...

Rula Sinara said...

Hi Pam,

I know how you feel. I'm a bit OCD too, so I tend to take on a lot. However, I've learned an important lesson from writing - synopsis writing in particular. No matter how impossible paring it down to two pages seems, it's doable. I've learned that when my demands get too demanding, I have to say no or reschedule anything that doesn't require immediate attention. Maybe only one or two things can get marked off the list, but it makes a difference.

If I stress out too much, it takes a toll on my health and if I'm sick, who will take care of my kids and loved ones? My mom always tells me that and it seems to work ;)

Take care,


Pamela Stone said...

Juliet, I knew you'd chime in. Just FYI to everyone else, we are good CPs, but we can stress each other out.

Rula! Yes OCD is hard to handle at times. Like you stress can take a toll on my health. I did an exercise a few years ago where I kept track of what I spent my time on, 24X7 for a week. Then I focused in on what I could do without. TV and movies were the first thing I cut or limited. Computer games like Bejeweled or Jawbreaker, although I've slipped back into that one. Talking on the phone for an hour when we could typically cover the subject in 5 minutes. On occassion, I tell family I need a weekend and to stay away. It did help. Maybe time for another exercise, huh?

linda s said...

Can't juggle worth a darn - very bad multi-tasker. I just plan my days in my head hour by hour and plough through one task at a time. I always end each day, no matter how late, with an hour of interrupted me time to read or write something creative/problem solving (And not work related.)

Pamela Stone said...

Linda, I'm trying to wind down each day by writing or reading also. At least it helps sleep some nights.