The Infamous Wall of Post-it Deadlines

The Editing Desk

You remember this photo, right? It was first featured in The Editing Life Laid Bare: A Brutal Look at the Statistics, and since then, has become affectionately (not to be confused with facetiously) known as my Wall of Post-it Deadlines. (I have a weird penchant for dubbing random things in my life. I’m sure you’ve noticed.) It details, in overwhelming, in-your-face, screaming brilliance the insanity that is my life. It’s changed a bit since I took this photo — post-its have come down, others have been put up, and a stack of paper vomited all over what little desk space I actually have — but the idea behind it is the same: it helps me keep tabs on exactly which projects are due when, and where they are in the process.

Now, I know some of you love seeing the nitty-gritty details of what the editing life actually looks like (as evidenced by the popularity of the aforementioned statistics-oriented post and your resounding encouragement via Twitter earlier this week), so I’m going to show you a slightly different version than I did last time. Namely, I’m going to show you exactly what I face on a daily basis. Not a breakdown of the finances vs time invested, but my own personal horror show of deadlines.

Go ahead, scoff at my sarcastic banter. You won’t be laughing by the end of this. In fact, you’ll either nominate me for Superhero status or insist that I must somehow be insane, because no normal person would ever voluntarily take on what you’re about to see. Are you ready?

You sure?

Okay, here goes!

My Life in Deadlines: aka One Woman’s Battle with Stress

As most of you know, I work a day job. It’s not a bad job, and it’s actually given me quite a few useful skills I’ve applied to my “secret” life in publishing, but it does take up a good part of my day. On top of that, I spearhead not one, but TWO departments for REUTS Publications and run my own freelance art/design/editing company on the side. Oh, plus I write, have a husband I like to actually spend some time with, and partake in hobbies that don’t involve any of the previously mentioned occupations. So, an average week on my calendar looks something like this:

Total weekly hours: 168

Hours spent at the Day Job of Doom: 40

Hours spent sleeping: 56

Hours spent on non-work life shenanigans: 20-44

Hours spent editing/reading/whatevering for REUTS & Freelance: 28-52 (and sometimes more if I’m under the gun on a deadline and have to sacrifice sleep.)

Number of days off: 1 every second blue moon on the third Tuesday of every fourth leap year. (Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but it feels like it sometimes.)

Scared yet? Just wait! It gets worse.

Now that we’ve established I’m in the running for Workaholic of the Year, let’s look at what all those lovely little post-its actually mean, shall we? All the things that pull at me during those 28-52 hours of REUTS/Freelance time. (I know that’s the part you’re all really curious about anyway; I just had to set the stage first. 😉 )

Acquisitions:

  • Total Number of Unread Queries: 217
  • Total Number of Unread Partial Requests: 20
  • Total Number of Unread Full Manuscripts: 82

Yeah, that’s a lot of reading. 82 full books! Imagine what that would look like if they were physical copies instead of digital . . .

Terrifying, wasn’t it? But on top of trying to find time to read that many potential gems, I also have to deal with these:

Editorial: (Can be either REUTS or Freelance)

  • Total Number of Projects in Process: 45
    • Number Awaiting Structural Edits:  41
    • Number Currently in Line Edits: 2
    • Number Currently in Proofreading: 2

That might not seem so scary. I mean, those numbers are smaller than the number I have waiting for me in the TBR pile, right? Except editing takes significantly more time than simply reading does. So let’s look at how those numbers really stack up, on a monthly basis.

Editorial Deadlines by Month:

Total Number of Projects I’m Behind On: 2 (What? I’m a human, not a robot. It happens.)

August 2015:

Structural Edits Due: 4
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 2
Proofreading Projects: 1

September 2015:

Structural Edits Due: 2
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 2
Proofreading Projects: 2

October 2015:

Structural Edits Due: 2
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 0

November 2015:

Structural Edits Due: 2
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 2
Proofreading Projects: 0

December 2015:

Structural Edits Due: 2
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 3
Proofreading Projects: 0

January 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 2
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 1

February 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 1
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 0

March 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 1
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 1

April 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 1
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 3
Proofreading Projects: 1

May 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 1
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 0

June 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 1
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 0

July 2016:

Structural Edits Due: 1
Line Edit Projects to be Completed: 1
Proofreading Projects: 0

My schedule is actually booked clear into 2017, but I think you get the idea. There’s never a moment in my foreseeable future when I don’t have at least two projects approaching a deadline. And those empty spots I listed are likely to fill up well before I actually get to the month involved.

Also, let’s not forget that I sometimes like to pretend to be a professional artist (because I really should use that expensive art-school degree for SOMETHING, right?) Currently, I have this many commissioned art projects on the schedule, all due by the end of the summer. As in next week.

Art:

  • Logo Design Projects: 1
  • Illustrations: 4

Not to mention having to find time to answer emails, deal with administrative work, and all the other hats I wear throughout an average day at REUTS. It’s exhausting to even look at that list, isn’t it? Which is why this is often my anthem:

So, there you have it, in all its gruesome detail: the explanation behind the infamous Wall of Post-it Deadlines and an inside look at what I’m working on. How do I juggle it all? Even I’m not completely sure. One thing at a time, I suppose. The takeaway here, aside from the fact that I’m a madwoman, is this: next time you think about sending an agent or editor a “friendly” nudge about the status of your whatever, take a moment to think about this. I’m not the only one out there with a frightening wall of deadlines. Do you really want to be the one that pushes the balance of stress too far? “When Editors Attack” isn’t something you really want to experience firsthand. Trust me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work before that 2 in the “projects I’m behind on” category becomes an 8. See you next week!

5 thoughts on “The Infamous Wall of Post-it Deadlines

    • It’s actually not so bad now that I’ve settled into a kind of rhythm. I make sure to take more time to do non-work related things, and I definitely make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. 😉

      I do have editorial interns who help me with a lot of stuff, too. So it’s not quite the one-woman show it probably seems. But I do know that this is what an editor’s life looks like more often than not, and the horror everyone is exhibiting in response tells me that not a lot of them have chosen to showcase it. If anything, I hope it helps open authors’ eyes to what we deal with on this side of the fence, and why it can sometimes take us forever to respond/work on something.

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