The pressure of deadlines

The pressure of deadlines

While facing an approaching deadline for getting this tome in ink, the procrastinating author came upon an Internet piece titled “Quick Tips for Writing Under Pressure.”

Written by a college professor named Richard Nordquist, the advice was buried on a website called under its section on grammar and composition.

Normally, sharing such a desperate move would be a no-no, but the promo said the tips would work for students taking a test or for workers finishing a proposal for a boss. Facing an editorial deadline, apparently, falls somewhere between those two.

In any event, in the interest of helping students and fellow workers, here are some of Nordquist’s tips for pressure-packed writing:

1. Slow down, think about your topic and your purpose (if a topic had come to mind, we wouldn’t be on this website; the purpose is to have something for the editor to put under the heading “Today’s Editorial” other than “Doodle Here”).

2. Define your task (that’s easy, see the last part of No. 1).

3. Divide your task into a series of small tasks (a process called “chunking”: Is this paragraph a “chunk?” Guess so, it feels pretty chunky).

4. Budget and monitor your time (oh, my, this is getting funny – there is no time!).

5. Relax (see number 4, then you relax).

6. Get it down – as James Thurber once advised, “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” (Finally, something we can relate to – a whole life has been lived by that motto).

7. Review – quickly check to make sure all your key ideas are on the page (in this case, all the key ideas are Nordquist’s, so it looks like we’re in pretty good shape).

8. Edit – Nordquist notes that one famous novelist had a habit of omitting vowels when under pressure – take the time to restore the vowels. He cautions that other writers may leave out other things (what’s left – consonants! Did we leave out the consonants?)

There is no number 9 in Nordquist’s piece. We would have recommended, “9. Remember to turn in test, report, editorial or whatever else you were under the gun to finish.”

Apparently, though, Nordquist ran out of time before he could get to number 9.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.