part-time musings

Tag: writing

Putting the dread in deadline

Despite the pleas for me to post more regularly (thanks Mum and Forrest), I’ve been unusually distracted over the last couple of weeks from attending to your reading pleasure because I’ve needed to focus all my energies on feeding The Deadline.

The Deadline has filled me with dread since I first agreed to it about a year ago. It involved me producing about 55 chapters on obscure historical topics, each about a million words in length.  I exaggerate only slightly. You’ll be pleased – but not surprised, surely, Dear Reader – to hear that I met this deadline despite my natural tendency to procrastination.  However in the last month or so as I oozed spinal fluid through my fingers trying to get everything done on time, I watched some people around me observing their deadlines fly happily and undisturbed past them as if they were conducting some sort of ornithological survey.

The more observant readers will be aware that I’m an academic with half a foot on the very bottom rung of the publishing industry.  (This is not to suggest that all editors inhabit the bottom rung, I’m just talking about my own very precarious position).  Having previously worked full-time in academia I’m now working freelance as a historian, writer, editor extraordinaire. My work depends on meeting deadlines and often on turning my particular screw with precision-timing on a post-Fordist conveyor belt of intellectual endeavor. While I previously found the tendency of some academics to ignore deadlines merely annoying and inconsiderate, it now induces in me an unhealthy amount of rage because of the way this disdain for deadlines has such a direct impact on my livelihood. Let’s just say I’m not currently having the best experience as both a supplier to, and user of, academia.  Having spent almost twe-  a long time immersed in the sector, I have enough personal investment in academia to want to see it work better. So if you get a bitey-sounding email from me inquiring after the well-being of a mutual deadline, it’s only because I care. And because I want to get paid.

Just words…

We read so much all the time, but it is rare that one reads something that is so beautifully written it stops you in your tracks. Today I started reading ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ by Françoise Sagan, and the opening lines did exactly that to me- jolted me with a profound sentiment – recognition I think – that I haven’t felt since reading Proust. Here they are:
“A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sadness. In the past the idea of sadness always appealed to me, now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I had known boredom, regret, and at times remorse, but never sadness. Today something envelopes me like a silken web, enervating and soft, which isolates me.”