I used to be in the world of film and film festivals, where you turn in a rough draft to the festival. If it's accepted, you have weeks or months to complete and perfect the piece. If it screens at several festivals, you have time between screenings to tinker with it. It's horrible!
More recently I've been doing journalism, which has inflexible deadlines. It's just great.
A filmmaker friend recently said, "I don't know how you deal with the deadlines. I'm such a perfectionist." Well deadlines are great therapy for perfectionists. You quickly realize that even perfect isn't perfect.
There's something so beautifully simple about a deadline. It's a thing you don't experience much in most of your life: a clean ending. Your relationships last for years or a lifetime and need constant care and tweaking. I recently bought a fixer-upper, and talk about a never-ending project.
But the deadline. You make a radio story, it airs, you listen, others listen -- mostly from their cars, distracted by their kids and traffic so they never notice whatever imperfections you yourself might hear -- and then it's over. Totally finished. The slate is clean. If there was something in the piece that could be improved upon, you pay it forward -- the improvement goes into the next piece.
In fact, I've learned to give myself deadlines. Like with the fixer-upper I mentioned, I decided if I plan a housewarming party, with an actual date, that'll provide a deadline.
Try it. Think of a something hanging over your head or stressing you out in its state of incompletion, and figure out a way to give yourself a deadline -- it's gotta be something with real-life consequences, like people showing up at your door for a party.
It's amazing how much you can get done when you have to. The deadline is a beautiful cathartic thing you'll quickly learn to love.
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