Writing on Deadline: 5 Tips for Journalism Students

In a recent Red & Black column, University of Georgia student Julia Carpenter described deadline writing as “one of the bloodiest, most soul-eviscerating activities known to mankind.  It’s really messy and I hate it.”  She meant it sarcastically.  I think.  (She also wrote how “immensely satisfying [it is] spinning something out in the narrowest of time frames.”)

As a follow-up, I asked if she had any serious words of wisdom for students forced to embark on a “deadline-induced mental spiral.”  Below is a sampling of her advice.

Writing Faster & More Effectively on Deadline

1) Make a to-do list.  Break down every task into its smallest, most manageable components.  If that even has to be “take cap off pen” then so be it.  Write it on pretty paper.  Add a sticker.  Grab a Kleenex and cry for the stress-packed, adrenaline-filled experience that will be your next 10 minutes/30 minutes/3 hours of deadline writing.

2) Time it.  When I’m in a serious deadline crunch, I actually allot myself mini-deadlines within deadlines– such as “complete first paragraph by 9:15” or “reach 200 words by 10.”  Yeah, it’s a little OCD.  Stop judging my meticulousness.  You’re wasting valuable minutes on deadline.

3) Just write.  When on deadline, over-editing yourself isn’t just silly– it’s downright dangerous.  It’s also time-consuming and, more critically, it’s stressful.  The last thing you need to do is add more stress as the clock ticks away every last second of your precious writing minutes.

4) Write with a friend.  You’re less likely to devolve into a sniveling, manic deadline mess when you have a warm body on the other side of the table to keep you in check.  Even if (heaven forbid) things don’t go as well as you initially planned, at least you will have someone around to mop up your tears.

5) Avoid caffeine at all costs.  The last thing your body needs right now is some added energy to the nervous adrenaline already coursing through your veins.  Take a minute to breathe and move forward sans-Red Bull– and then proceed onward through deadline writing hell, all the way to the other side of glory.  Godspeed.


Georgia Student: Deadline Writing ‘One of the Bloodiest, Most Soul-Eviscerating Activities Known to Mankind’

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