Yep. You read the right.
Ok. I’m not the swimmer but bear with me because I sure felt like her this morning when I realized I have a deadline in a week.
I woke up, ready to spend the morning working on some pieces that I wanted to submit to a journal that had a deadline at the end of March. (This is where I’m the swimmer peacefully minding her own business.)
I open my calendar to write down the agenda for today only to notice that the deadline I thought was at the end of March was actually the beginning of March. (I just felt the water ripple underneath my feet, and I felt the brush of a dorsal fin against my arm.)
Sweat immediately beaded up on my brow, and the hair on my arms stood on end. I flipped through my dates again, checked the deadlines on the journal’s website, and felt the dread sink deep into my chest. (The shark has just taken a taste test of my foot and found it to be delicious.)
I was about to be consumed by a deadline that I thought was a ways away. I was so very wrong, and there wasn’t anyone to blame but myself because I had gone into deep waters without the proper lifelines. I knew I was done for.
I only had one piece out of five that I was really sure I wanted to submit. I had written down the pieces I wanted to work on for submission when I thought I had more time, but they were all pieces that I was going to start from scratch, and I don’t think I can create, edit, and make something presentable in a week.
It’s at this point that I really bless the fact that I hate getting rid of anything I write. I hoard my own crap writing like some people hoard fuzzy socks. Ok, so I do that too.
Even if I cut something from a work I have a designated trash folder that’s nothing but clips and discarded pieces of old works. I knew that I had a piece in there that had been a rough draft idea for another story that had gone a completely different direction. I pulled it out, read it over, and realized that I had the makings of a decent short story in the mess of those pages.
All of my longer works tend to be birthed from ideas I’ve written down as short, short stories. Think roughly 500 words. It’s just enough to get the bare bones of the idea down, but nothing much comes of those 500 words after the fact when I actually begin working on the longer piece. They’re more of a bookmark in my mind so I remember what sparked the idea in the first place.
So, I pull this piece out, reread it several times, and put together a story that fits somewhat neatly into the 1,250 word limit of the submission guidelines. It hardly resembles the larger piece that came from the idea but limited to the confines of the word count, it became something else all its own.
This journal allows you to submit five works for consideration, but I’ve never been one to send five pieces. For one, I haven’t written that many shorter pieces that would give me five options, and I would much rather send in two or three really well-written works than five I felt were subpar.
This week has really been a lesson in triple checking those deadlines, and even if you think something is wretched, or simply doesn’t work anymore with the piece you’re currently writing, you might think about saving it in a catch-all folder.
It might turn out to be your lifeline in dangerous waters.