Ask writers what they dislike most about the process and the issue of time restraints will probably appear near the top of the list. There’s a final date to enter writing competitions, there are deadlines when your work is accepted and needs to be edited, there are book launches to attend when you’re finally in print, and so forth.
Although lead times in publishing can be weeks or even months, the deadline can still creep up on you before you know it. Right now, it’s half-past July, so publishers will be looking for Christmas material. Similarly, they’ll be planning for Easter by the time Halloween comes around. The savvy writer is thinking of Santa in summer.
A sense of timing is also important in the shorter term. On many occasions, I’ve turned up at events at the time specified, only to find that’s when the doors open, not when it begins.
Tonight, I’m running Hotchpotch, an open-mike night for writers, and I make it clear that the doors open at 6:30pm for the readings to begin at 7pm. There are still occasional latecomers, and they’re welcome to join us, but they know they’ll miss some of the readings. Conversely, the Dundee & Angus NaNoWriMo region meets up every week, whether or not the official contest is happening. An e-mail and a Facebook post are made several days in advance, and each one states that members are welcome to drop in and out at any time.
Of course, it can be just as important to state as early as possible when you won’t be able to make it. I have this situation in August; I’ve written a piece to respond to an artwork, but I had a prior commitment the same night. In this instance, I’m aiming to arrange for someone else to present the piece, which will allow me to keep the other commitment.
One tool I find incredibly useful is a Moleskine diary. The strongest advantage I find over an electronic diary is that much more information can be displayed at the same time. The physical act of writing out deadlines and appointments also helps to secure it in my head. That includes making my Monday blog entries on time.