Most deadlines are stationary partners in The Deadline Dance. Not so for the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards. The due date has moved. Submissions now must be postmarked on or before Saturday, August 22. Complete submission guidelines are available on the SCWW website at www.myscww.org
So what is The Deadline Dance? It's how we approach that fateful day when a submission is due. We step toward it with gusto and energy with the first sparks of an idea. Then back off in trepidation and fatigue as the real work begins. But then those 'aha' moments come and we pick up our pace again. Most of us continue that start and stop as we inch toward the deadline.
Some writers waltz. Their outlining, researching, writing and editing are choreographed in precise steps to the final date. Others believe they need to let the adrenalin build up and then they'll jitterbug in a flurry of writing as it all spills out. We all dance the dance that feels most comfortable.
I remember my first real Deadline Dance. I was a senior in Ms. Hayden's Senior Comp class. On Mondays she'd assign a paper, due at the beginning of class the following Monday. I was a busy senior with work, sports, a boyfriend and other schoolwork, so the first assignment I put off until the weekend and punched out my required three pages. I got an A. And I decided I'd found my writing method, my dance routine. I'd let the creative juices and ideas spin and whirl in my head all week and then Sunday night, around midnight, they'd magically coalesce and produce a masterpiece. I didn't actually have to do anything but show up for the final recital at the deadline.
That worked once.
Years later I saw my former teacher. I mentioned to her I'd become a published poet, thinking that would somehow redeem the mediocre grades from her class. She gave me that exasperated look teens reserve for their parents and countered, "Well, it's not like I just gave those away."
Ouch! Point taken. I show up much earlier and more consistently these days.
There are studies that attempt to explain how and why deadlines affect us the way they do. But no matter what dance we do, once thing I've noticed as the SCWW Contest Chair is that many writers wait until the last possible moment to place their manuscript into an envelope and slip it through the mail slot. What is it that keeps us from letting go of our work earlier? Are we waiting for the perfect word to replace the one we know just isn't right? Do we question or doubt our ability? Is is just a time management problem? Whatever the reason, hedging too close to the deadline can cause problems.
Some things to keep in mind as the new Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards deadline approaches.
1. Do a good final edit and let the manuscript go. We all want our submission to be
perfect, but sometimes we edit the thing to death and it lingers and never gets on its way.
2. Anticipate the unexpected. I've heard numerous stories about the computer that died
or the printer that ran out of ink or the medical/family/Act of God emergency that
occured the night before or the day of the deadline.
3. Have all your mailing supplies handy and be familiar with your post office.
There are several post offices in my area and they have different hours of operation AND
different clearing offices:Charlotte for some, Columbia for others. This affects both the post
dates and the time it takes for mail to get where it's going.
4. Allow for mail delays. Neither rain nor sleet nor . . . well, holidays can mess things up. For
the Carrie McCray we take note of when Labor Day falls and try to work around that. But
sometimes other things happen. An unfortunate incident occured with our High School
Writing Competition this year. A teacher dropped off a packet of entries the day before the
postmark deadline, but for some reason it didn't get stamped and sent until several days
later. The only thing I could do was return the manuscripts.
5. Read and follow the complete guidelines before you head to the PO. If you reread
them after you've sent in your work and then realize you've goofed somewhere, you can only
fix it if there's still time to resubmit before the posted deadline. If you have questions about
anything, my e-mail address is listed in the submission information and I'm more than
happy to help you out.
So now, go put on those dancing shoes and get moving. This dance ends Saturday, August 22.