Sometimes deadlines are made to be broken. Okay, not really. But if you notice you’re breaking them, it’s time to stop collecting them. That’s just what I’m about to do.

I have been extremely fortunate with my Muskoka Novel Marathon experiences. I’ve participated four times, and I’ve won Best Novel Award four times (2007-Sebastian’s Poet, 2008-The Reasons, 2010-Half Dead & Fully Broken, 2011-That’s Me in the Corner). The winning manuscripts get sent to the desk of a publisher for both consideration & feedback. This is a huge opportunity. I’ve had great feedback on my manuscripts over the years.

My problem this year is that deadlines and commitments are converging. I’m trying not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but his outrageously large teeth seem to be right at eye level at the moment. I now have 20 days to pound my winning manuscript into top form before it moves on to Red Deer Press for feedback/consideration. I’m still sitting at between 1/2 and 3/4 of a novel. You heard correctly…this is the first year I didn’t completely finish my first draft at the actual marathon. And I’ve had 3 months to complete it since the marathon took place. I was so absolutely sure my manuscript wouldn’t win this time around that I hardly worked on it between marathon time (July) and wrap-party time (in September, when the winners are announced).

I was going to find time to marathon the last 1/2 of the novel on my own. But two of the last three weekends before the November 1st deadline are already spoken for, and the 3rd weekend is three days before the deadline. I do believe my goose is cooked either way I look at it. I might be able to marathon the rest of the manuscript on the weekend of the 28th, but it gives me no time to take advantage of the marathon appointed editor to give it a final polish before it goes on to the publisher. The pressure is killing me.

But, boy did I ever digress. I was going to talk about deadlines and getting rid of them when life gets too full.

I missed a deadline a couple of weeks ago. It was like a stabby shot to the heart. And not only did I miss it once, but I was given a grace period second deadline and I missed it too! I HATE missing deadlines. It was for a Wordweaver (WCDR Newsletter) article on writing dialogue. The thing is, not only did I have SO much going on at the time…but I also struggled with the content of the article. It was one of those things–I know how to do it, but I can’t figure out how to explain it to someone else! Have you ever milked a cow? It looks really easy. And when someone is sitting there showing you how to do it, it looks so simple you get all cocky before it’s your turn to do it. Then you sit on that freakish three-legged stool (which in itself is a test. I think the Buddha himself created the three-legged stool…just to see if people were paying attention.) to give it a go and BAMMO! It’s not as easy as it looks. You pull and pull and pull…but that bloody udder won’t give you a drop. And the cow resents the hell out of your stupidity, too. She mocks you with a few growls and moans (or, if you prefer, MOOS). And, yes, I swear I even recall hearing a cow laugh. But then, with practice and discipline you figure it out…you realize there’s a real finesse to getting that milk to come. And then you sit there on your three-legged stool and you don’t fall over and you don’t tip the pail and you actually get a good portion of milk to come out. You’re a milker! BUT…then you try to tell someone else how to do it and you return to being your helpless self. Because you tell them, “Like this…see” and they fall off the stool and tell you, “this cow’s empty” because they can’t get the milk to come. It’s a vicious circle. DO is so much easier than TEACH.

Wow… okay. So much for staying on task. DEADLINES. I’m giving everything up for a little bit. I will see if I can’t get the marathon novel into submission readiness by November 1st, but after that I’m going to make no commitments. I seem to be living life lately…too busy for this huge train of a hobby that has somehow become such an integral part of my life. I can’t make writing commitments if I’m not meeting deadlines. I am anal about things like that.

Besides, life is so interesting and fulfilling at the moment. There are times when you just have to jump in and have fun. Put the writing away for a spell (is it true that only old people use the word spell in that context?).

My daughter is getting married on Saturday (Oct 15th) and the following Saturday I am going on a short trip of discovery to Ohio. I am SO looking forward to this wedding…I’ve seen the dress. She’s going to be the perfect bride. And we are getting an amazing son-in-law. It’s all good. I don’t want distractions. I don’t want deadlines bickering in the back of my mind for attention. So I’m just going to ignore the not-gonna-make-the-deadline-guilt that I’ve been feeling lately. I have to. Because sometimes, when life gets in the way, you have to take the leap…and get into life!

Check out my debut novel SUMMER ON FIRE