Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Oh My Ears and Whiskers, How Late it's Getting!

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Adams was a masochist, pure and simple. As I sit here I have missed a deadline. Not just a, "whoops, I know the deadline was yesterday", miss. No this is a, "somewhere last month I was supposed to have this all done", kind of miss. The sound of it whooshing by was not pleasant. Honestly I don't think of it as whooshing by, but more that it rushed up on me, knocked me to the ground and is now sitting on my chest subjecting me to Chinese  water torture.

Of course the first, obvious, question - and one I know my editor will ask if he reads this - is "if you have time to write this blog, don't you have time to work on your assignment". The answer is a "Yes" and a "No." Yes, I am writing. In theory that means I could be writing the assignment I'm late on. No, I shouldn't be writing it right now because if I wrote it in the head space I'm in, I'd write utter garbage. I've learned the lesson that there is a difference between "Just write" and "Write what needs to be written." If you can't focus on your primary project, you should still write. If you don't exercise your writing muscles, they get weak. So write. Write a blog, a book review, another project, but at least write.

But that's not the theme of this blog. It will make a great blog, but not today.

Today the theme is communication.

Writing can be a very solitary activity. Grab your laptop, some headphones and that triple venti marbled mochamia with a lemon twist and find a tree to sit under. Bingo, you are writing. And unless you've mastered the entire chain of writing, editing, cover art, self-publishing, etc. you will need to talk to other folks. (For more on self-publishing I highly recommend Mike Stackpole, Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch's blogs. They have all been tackling the major changes in the publishing industry and the ease that you can self e-publish.)

It can be very easy to fall into the "zone" and just focus on your writing. Or at least focus on not writing (Put the World of Warcraft DVD back in the box!). And then as that deadline gets closer and closer, like some mad tornado of swirling doom, you run for the basement to ride out the coming storm. Might make you feel better, but the folks waiting for your work are not getting warm fuzzies.

And in today's world, it isn't like there isn't a high barrier to entry for communication. I can reach the BattleTech Line Developer in at least seven ways, all without moving from my chair.

So communicate. Do it early, do it often, do it always. When I was in the middle of the TRO3085 project, I talked with Herb at least once a day (usually by IM). I send him updates on a regular basis (Just finished section 4, working on section 5). And most importantly, when something is not going the right direction, communicate early!

A week before my deadline, I emailed Herb and told him I knew I was going to be late. I asked if he could prioritize the work I was doing so I could least impact him and I apologized ahead of time. Since then I've communicated regularly to let him know my status.

If you mess up, you need to talk even more. Hiding in a dark hole is only a way to ensure someone sends  the marines in to find you.

Until next time,
Writer, Explorer, Learner

Caveat Emptor- These blogs are written without the protection of an editor. I do proofread them, but I know I'm far from perfect. The ideas are sound and I'm still learning the foundational techniques. Thank you.

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