There is surely a reason why they’re called deadlines.

The origin of the term came from American Civil War military confrontation, and later prisoner-of-war camps. Cross this line and you’re dead. The idea was you were safe until you approached the line when the guards would draw a bead on you. They’d watch you until you crossed the line and then, bang. You’re dead.

Deadlines. Perhaps a bit of hyperbole when you’re talking about words.


In the literary world, it’s not difficult to see how this became a commonly used term. You, the writer, are only as good as your last piece. You are competing for attention and publication with hundreds, if not thousands of others. You have one chance to make it in time for publication, and if you cross the line, your tenure as a writer might be over for good.

I was reminded of the times I used to write essays for my degree. As a typical male undergraduate, I would have a loose idea of what I wanted to write on a particular subject and knew I had about five or six weeks to write it. Of course, I never actually began the process of writing the essay until the day before the deadline. Then I would write long into the night, with my favourite half-dozen classical music pieces blasting through my headphones until around 3.30am until I had my 2500 words and was able to hand it in the next morning, red-eyed but safe.

How different things are now. I’m in my mid-forties, I have a deadline in eight days for a completed 90,000-word novel to be sent to the copy-editor, and here I am writing this having just got back from seeing the Lego Batman Movie and seemingly blase about the whole thing, and I still have about 35,000 words to rewrite.

I am still cool.

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