Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Assignment

I love it when an editor gives me an assignment.  It makes me feel tough . . . like I'm starring in one of those old Mission Impossible episodes where the voice on the tape recorder says:

Your mission . . . should you decide to accept it . . . is to deliver 1000 words to my desk in 24-hours.  But beware of people like your wife, who will attempt to distract your attention toward the leaky kitchen faucet or that hole in the basement drywall.  Don't give in to these diversions and don't entertain any thoughts of going out for a late-night Dairy Queen treat.  Stay focused!  Keep writing!  This tape will self-destruct as soon you begin writing the first sentence.

Last night I was able to fulfill my most recent assignment in spite of the diversions.  It was fun polishing off a piece and still finding time to eat dinner out of a can.

Over the years I've come to realize that most people who want to write an article, a book, or even a poem, often don't complete these because they don't have an assignment . . . they don't have a deadline or a drop-dead date that tells them:  get it done, or else!

That's why it is important to keep that tape recorder running in your head and in your heart, even if you don't have an actual assignment.  Set up an artificial date.  Establish a goal.  And make-believe that if you don't complete the piece by then, it's just too late and you didn't make it to press.  All is lost.

For some reason I've been able to set these dates in my head since I was ten, or eleven, or twelve years old.  I've always had that tape running, and I owe it all to Mission Impossible.  I don't want that tape self-destructing while I am patching basement drywall instead of writing.  I don't want to have my hand blown off by a tape recorder while I am fixing a faucet. 

I'd rather be at the keyboard, punching up words and sentences and whole paragraphs before the tape explodes.

Which reminds me . . . I've got another deadline to meet.  And I'd better get moving.  The rest of the MI team is waiting for me.


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