Menu Close

Week 17 – Deadlines are Lifelines

I once knew a poet, Sid Lyman, who was the Poet Laureate of Portland, Oregon, when I lived there for a few years. It was my honor to dub him “The Port Laureate of Poetland.” Anyway, the two of us were talking about deadlines one evening, when Sid said, “I don’t understand why people call them deadlines. The word should be lifelines.”

Sid was absolutely correct. Lifeline is surely the more appropriate word, but since deadline is so prevalent in our society today, I’ll stick to that word for now.

My favorite writer of all time, William Saroyan, always set a deadline for himself. He churned out a story a day. He wrote his famous play, The Time of Your Life, in six days. Each of his novels or memoirs was written in around thirty days. Deadlines made Saroyan an extremely prolific writer. I met him twice in my life. In our first meeting, he explained his philosophy of deadlines to me:

“I was talking to this writer and he asked me how I wrote The Time of Your Life in six days. My answer to him was, ‘How did you write your book in six months?’ Time is relative. If you set a deadline for yourself, then the same thing will come out in six days as it will in six months…or even six years.”

I’ve set a deadline for myself to write an essay on writing once a week for 52 weeks. When Tuesday rolls around, I know it’s time to finish a piece and post it on my website. Deadlines are a godsend–they help me keep writing. Deadlines give me life. They force me to concentrate, really concentrate, on the goal at hand. Deadlines have made me produce more stories, essays and books than I could have ever imagined. That’s why deadlines, as Sid Lyman once said, should be called lifelines.