Wednesday, July 01, 2009

One of My Best Qualities: Ability to Meet (Ish) Deadlines!

So, the collection article is sent off! Hooray! I'm sure that I will need to do things to it in the coming months (for the road to publication is long and winding, and done is never done until something appears), but I sent the thing off! I am so pleased with myself! This means that I can return all of my overdue ILL books!

You know, I've written about research and publication a fair bit, but you know what I don't acknowledge enough? That one of the reasons that I have as strong a publication record as I do is that I'm good with deadlines. Now, without a deadline, I don't accomplish very much at all. Let's be real about that, first of all. But once I've got a deadline in place (whether real, as this one was, or perceived, as when a journal invites one to submit something based on a conference paper with an open-ended deadline, but clearly you need to submit it soon-ish so that they don't look at it like it's from outer space when it arrives three years later) I am very motivated to get the thing done. I can credit my humble beginnings writing for my high school and college newspapers for this, I think. See, for me, once I've got a deadline, there is just no option of not getting the thing done. And since I know that I don't do diddly squat without a deadline, I tend to put myself in positions where I've got them. And I don't really think this is a chicken and egg thing for me - I think that without deadlines I don't actually have ideas. Or not ones that I pursue anyway. I am not a person who keeps up with the scholarship in my field without it relating to something I'm working on, and I'm not a person who just has great ideas that I pursue without an end (publication) in sight. I think the deadline comes before the research for me. This may be why I've never been so stellar with the sending stuff out cold to journals or whatever.

But at any rate, I think this quality has made a huge difference for me in terms of racking up the publication lines on my cv (for publications big and small) in part because now I've developed a reputation as a person who gets things in by a deadline. When you do that, people then ask you to do more stuff because they know that they'll get the stuff from you when they need it. Or they tell other people that they should ask you to do stuff for the same reason. It's really quite something. But I suppose it also helps that deadlines don't freeze me up - rather, they actually make it possible for me to produce things. In part because I can't stand the thought of blowing off a deadline, and so that stops me from hemming and hawing (the initial part of my creative process) and gets me actually working. The ability to meet deadlines isn't a very fancy quality to have, but it is a very useful one.

See, the deadline for the essay was actually yesterday. And when I was unceremoniously awakened this morning by some idiot who was blasting country music below my window at 5:30 in the freaking morning (Loading the car for a holiday weekend jaunt? Just a jerk?), I felt a burning desire to finish the article. Well, after I thought better of my burning desire to yell expletives out the window at that person. Because I knew I didn't get it in by last night, and it was KILLING me. So, now the thing is done, and my editor was pleased to receive it, and sure, there've got to be things that could be better about it, but whatever. No point in drawing out the agony of this stage of things, when I'm sure my editor will have suggestions that I'll have to deal with later anyway.

I suspect that one of the challenges for me post-tenure will be to maintain deadlines for myself. Because the thing about the tenure-track pre-tenure is that Going Up is like it's own Huge Deadline. I'm sure that's the only reason why I got my book proposal circulated when I did, even though there technically wasn't a deadline for that. Now, no more Huge Deadline. I mean, you can really go up for full whenever you like, right? In theory the soonest I could do it would be after five or six years, but that's not a deadline really - just the point at which the window opens. I suppose I do have the deadline for sabbatical applications to start me off this year, but realistically, after that? I don't have any institution-specific deadline for like another 7 years (when I'd be eligible to apply for another sabbatical). That said, maybe I don't need to worry about this because I had no deadlines for anything this year, and all of a sudden they materialized before me, spurring me on to ever greater research productivity over the past couple of months.

Eh, whatever. For now, I am just going to bask in my conscientiousness, have some lunch, and take a shower. Life is good!


Janice said...

Deadlines are supremely motivating, aren't they? I do a lot of writing to deadline in a hobby I pursue, so it's easy to bring that same "get it organized and get it done" mentality back to my writing for work. That's also helped get me past the perfectionism that otherwise would delay my academic output.

As you said, when you know you're going to get the editor to look things over, it makes sense to get out "the best that you can for the deadline" rather than miss the deadline by a country mile so no editor (or reader) sees the piece at all!

Belle said...

Good for you; I'm envious.

Dr. Crazy said...

Belle, don't be envious! It's just the way of me! Sometimes I wish I weren't so motivated by deadlines, actually, as it would mean that I would more easily put other things first. That said, I'm embracing the good of it today. Because seriously: it is a good thing, even if it's boring. (And it is boring.)

Shane in Utah said...

I used to be really good about meeting deadlines. Then, about 2 years before the Huge Deadline of tenure, I freaked out and signed up for literally a half dozen research projects. Most of them got done eventually (a couple are still in progress), but along the way I may have muddied my reputation as someone who always meets deadlines. But maybe not, because I'm still being asked to write stuff, so I still have a bunch of looming deadlines, which can be oppressive as much as it is motivating. In this first post-tenure summer, I'm very, very tired...