Deb had a great post this week: Freelance Writing: You’re Only Competing Against Yourself. It got me thinking about how often we can sabotage our success. One area writers can set themselves up for failure is ‘just finishing’ an article.
Just finishing is getting an article in just under deadline, under duress and under your standards. Procrastination is usually the right hand man to just finishing. The root causes of procrastination are as varied as the writer – poor time management, fear of tackling the piece, cockiness that you will get it in on time and it’ll be fab because you’re just that good, etc.
The consequences of just finishing show up in a variety of ways. When you have set the standard that you will likely be the last writer to get their piece in, an editor knows you are the worst person to call with a rush piece. This cuts down not only on your ability to get more of the juicy last minute gigs and the rush fees that may accompany them, it will make your services less valuable to the editor. There’s no competition between a writer that will work hard, get things in before deadline and deliver tight work, versus one that will squeak in under the deadline with an obviously rushed piece and a sheepish emoticon grin.
Another possible scenario – if you have set yourself up as a stellar writer who turns in great work before deadline and you start down the path of last minute, your editor is going to notice. Editors and teachers can tell when something has been written last minute. It, at times, reeks of desperation. The article will likely need more tightening/editing than any of your previous pieces and if seen repeatedly the editor/publication will begin to wonder if you are still passionate about working for them. That’s never a great conversation – trust me.
Now let’s be real, everyone has off days and even months. There are times when things don’t click, won’t click and can’t be persuaded to click. Editors understand, they are people too and are more likely to give their favorite writers the benefit of the doubt. Don’t take advantage of their humanity and avoid being in that position if you have just started establishing a reputation and a career. Getting comfortable with ‘just finishing’ is like cozying up to mediocre – it will just hold you back.