Thursday, April 4, 2024

What Does a Writer Do After She's Met Her Deadline?

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I recently survived my 13th writing deadline. 

You might think that would mean I was prepared for the aftermath.

You would be wrong.

Even though I should have known what was coming, it still took me several days to process my emotions and behaviors and trust that I would be okay. Why?

I have a theory. 

You’ve heard people talk about writing books being similar to pregnancy. Well, I’ve had three children and there are many things that I’ve apparently blocked out. Some people say we don’t remember all the details of delivery because if we did, we’d never do it again. That our minds protect us from the memories so we’ll continue to procreate. 

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it feels true.

And it’s true for the hours, days, and weeks immediately following the completion of a novel as well. 

So for my benefit next year when I am in this exact same spot, and because I think you have a right to know what you’re getting into, I’ve made a few notes about what happens to me post-deadline. 

As always, your mileage may vary. This is descriptive, not prescriptive. But if you resonate with any of these things, know that you’re not alone. 

**Also, a reminder for the writers who see a bunch of numbers below and panic. It goes like this - Hours:Minutes:Seconds**

00:00:00 Hit send.

00:00:01 Stare at screen. 

00:00:03 Consider recalling the email. 

00:00:05 Remember that the book is due, and there’s nothing more to be done until your editor decides that you’re either the worst author ever or possibly a genius, but probably somewhere in between.

00:00:10 Close eyes. Bow head. Thank God it’s over. Ask Him to make something of the mess you’ve made of this story. Pray for your editor to be gentle and have had plenty of coffee the day she reads it.

00:01:00 Wonder what to do next. Body says, “Go to bed, you moron. I’m exhausted.” Brain says, “Do you have any idea how many things you still have to do?” Emotional center says, “I’m so happy! I’m so scared! I’m so excited! I’m so … everything. All at once.” Brain says, “You can’t be all those things at once.” Emotional center says, “Wanna bet?” Body says, “For the love, put me to bed.” 

00:05:00 Promise yourself that tomorrow you will relax. You will unwind. You will chill. 

00:59:00 Finally get in bed. Exhaustion takes over. Sleep is weird. Dreams are a combination of Doctor Who, NCIS, and Pride and Prejudice.

Day after Deadline
00:01:00 - Try not to think about plot holes. Try to be happy because you did it! You turned in a book! 

00:02:00 - Wonder why you aren’t happy. 

00:03:00 - Try to read a book, because books make you happy. Read three pages. Stop. Still not happy. 

00:04:00 - Panic. Can’t read. Can’t relax. There is no chill happening. 

02:00:00 - Give up on relaxation and make a list of all the things you didn’t do in the 6-8 weeks leading up to the deadline. Panic. Start laundry. Clean out the fridge.

03:00:00 - Remember you’re supposed to be relaxing. Try again. 

04:00:00 - Wander around the house. Consider hopping a plane to anywhere. Remember that you’re a writer and you can’t afford to do that. 

05:00:00 - Look at the list again. Process crushing guilt about how much you didn’t do over the past few months. Eat chocolate.

06:00:00 - Text writer friends with variations on the theme of, “I think there’s something wrong with me.”

06:02:00 - Writer friends respond with variations on the theme of, “You do this every.single.time and we love you. Breathe. You’ll be fine.”

06:03:00 - Stare at phone in shock. They’re right. This has happened before. You aren’t losing it. You’re normal. Okay, no, you aren’t normal. But that’s okay because you never were. 

06:04:00 - Give yourself grace. Breathe. 

06:05:00 - Finally remember that after a deadline, words don’t work. Find creative outlets that require no words. Crochet. Cook. Play a game. Stop yourself from doing a crossword puzzle because, again, words don’t work. Do a sudoku instead. 

12:00:00 Decide to write a blog post, when you can use words again, about this experience because as the day has gone on, you’ve remembered that this happens every time. 

15:00:00 Go to bed at a decent hour for the first time in weeks. Have weird dreams. 

Second Day after Deadline
06:00:00 - Wander around. Lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling fan. Eat chocolate. 

12:00:00 - Decide that your ability to relax has been permanently broken. 

14:00:00 - Try to read again. Nope. Too soon. 

15:00:00 - Sleep. Weird dreams continue.

Third Day after Deadline
06:00:00 - Realize that your brain is finally slowing down. Succeed in chilling out for a while. 

09:00:00 - Spend a few hours not chilling because really, have you *seen* the list of stuff you need to do? 

15:00:00 - Sleep. 

Fourth Day after Deadline
06:00:00 - Huh. So, it takes a solid three days to calm down and re-sync my body, brain, and emotions. Wow. Seems like I should have remembered this. 

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn is the award-winning author of Unknown Threat, Malicious Intent, and Under Fire, as well as the Dive Team Investigations series. She loves writing swoon-worthy southern suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters by putting them into terrifying situations while she's sitting at home in her pajamas! She lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Learn more at


  1. I love this Lynn. It is funny how after meeting a deadline, your balance is thrown off. Seems weird, few people tell you about it, but it is very common. You’ve got this.

    Tim Suddeth

  2. Lynn, this is [painfully] hilarious and all too familiar. I found great comfort in your post, followed by Tim's comment that our balance gets thrown off. IT DOES! And he's right, few talk about it. Like it's a "family secret." Good on you for throwing a spotlight on it.

  3. I love this! Humor is good for the soul. Thanks!