I absolutely had to be somewhere and there were others with me, counting on me to drive them there. Time was getting short. Daylight was fading and a freezing rain was setting in – and I hadn’t even started packing my stuff, which was scattered all over the place. I just couldn’t seem to get going.
It was another deadline dream. I’ve been having them with regularity these days — nights I mean. It’s because I’m a writer. These dreams vary in content, but they have a common theme in that I’m going to be late for something important to me and others who are depending on me — and I seem to be running in place.
Here’s another. I’ve lost my camera and the notes I took for a story. I can’t figure out if I’ve misplaced them or they’ve been stolen. I need to find them but other events keep interfering with my search.
My deadlines aren’t nearly as frequent as they were when I was a full time newspaper reporter. Nowadays, as a retiree, I’ve been writing freelance outdoor columns and short features (less than 1,000 words) for a couple different publications at the rate of about one a week on average.
So it’s a bit of a mystery why I’ve been having these dreams on such a regular frequency. I suspect it’s a cumulative effect. I’ve been writing on deadline for almost thirty years. I’m a writer. Deadlines are a part of who I am.
As I understand it, the word “deadline” was born during the Civil War. Captured prisoners would be held in a group, surrounded by a line drawn in the dirt. Cross that line and you’d be shot dead! I can’t remember actually missing a deadline, but I’ve stretched a few. I’ve never been shot as a result, but I suspect an editor or two might have thought about it.
Deadlines are a fact of life for a working writer, always looming, hanging there in the near future. I thought I was pretty used to them, but I suspect my dreams are telling me otherwise. I don’t remember most of my dreams. I’m aware I dream, we all do, but mine just seem to evaporate with the dawn. Lately all the ones I remember are deadline related. I think I remember them because I wake up feeling anxious and wondering why.
There was one where I was failing to provide a very important witness to save someone from a guilty verdict in a court case. The witness was willing, eager to testify. The failure was going to be all mine, due to my own procrastination and the interference of other people.
There was also one in which I’m in a newsroom and the issue is about to go to print. I’m working on two unfinished stories, which I’ve promised the editor I’ll get done in time. But I can’t seem to get going on them. I keep going back to where I left off, but then someone interrupts to ask me a question and I’m off on another tangent. I leave the newsroom in a fit of anger and frustration that has me punch the wall with my fist. I’m seeking a quiet place to write, but I get lost temporarily. Then I’m climbing a set of stairs to what I know is the right place to write, but the stairs run out at the top. One person, a janitor, is trying to pull me up, while a colleague just stands idly by and watches.
The janitor isn’t strong enough. I’m having trouble getting a leg up. The next thing I know I’m falling …
I’m thinking maybe I’ve had it with deadlines. I’m retired. I should be having fun. I’m going to write novels now – strictly at my own pace — and some occasional columns. I’m good at columns, used to get press association awards for them.
I’ll write them here — for you.