When Rushed Works

I’ve always done my best work under pressure.  Got a paper due?  Write it the night before.  A test to study for?  Reread notes the morning of.

What I didn’t know was that this state of existence applied to other parts of my life.  Okay, I knew it, but it was a nice segue. 

I’m in the process of putting together a business that includes buying some property.  At the last second, I needed to get an application and past tax returns to the banker–before he left his office for men’s league.  I was under a serious time crunch. 

Even though rushed, I’m fairly organized.  I found the tax returns in minutes and sat down to finish the last of the application.  Driver’s license number?  Grabbed my purse, penned in the number.  Issue date?  August 2005.  Expiration date?  Sh*t.  August 2009.

Today’s date: June 2010.

I rushed to the court house and dropped my expired license to the counter.  “I think I’m in trouble.”

Turns out I had a whole two months before my license would have truly expired and I would have had to retake my test.  Turns out the clerk whisked me to the photo footprints and told me to watch the light for my new mug shot. 

Something you all should know about me if you’ve followed me for any length of time: I’m laid back and messed up.  My hair, which had just been cut–too short and not what I wanted–the previous week, was simply tucked behind my ears so I could sort through the basement to find the tax returns. 

As I rushed out the door, I had thrown on a 12 year old cardigan to protect my tank top from the pouring rain.  I was totally unprepared to let the DMV snap a four-year photo. 

DMV Clerk tried twice.  The first time, the camera misfired and took a picture of my non-existent cleavage.  No kidding.  We both laughed out loud.  The second picture was blurry.  I looked like I was standing across the parking lot in a downpour at midnight.  Great stuff.

The third time was a charm.  By then we were both caught up in a fit of giggles.  I’m sure it’s the only DMV photo in Minnesota history where the suspect is grinning from ear to ear.  It’s also the best impromptu picture I’ve ever taken.

Seriously, I want to scan it and use it for my profile pic. 

I have a theory about why this turned out so well.  Really, why everything turns out better for me when I’m on the cusp of a deadline.  It’s because I let go of my inhibitions and actually relax.

I quit worrying about the outcome and enjoy the process.  It needs to get done, so I do it.  Freed from my Internal Editor, my Internal Critic, my missing muse and my fears of failure, I simply let go and write, find errant tax returns and smile for the camera.

What about you?  Do you thrive under pressure, or does it send you into fits of unease?  Do you second guess yourself when you have unlimited time and end up paralyzed because of it?  Or do you need structure and schedules to stay on task?

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24 responses to “When Rushed Works

  1. Loved your DL story. I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. It all happens at the last minute when I work out a way to get something done the rest is busy “getting there.” I don’t really plan so much as evolve. Really, I am not into planning…I hate it but I do study situation and then work on getting there. I get things done, just in my own time and my own way. Drives people crazy, except for my roomie after 14 years she has resigned herself to my way of doing things on a celestial serendipitous kind of level that doesn’t jive with the rest of the universe.

    Too bad it doesn’t make for a better DL for me. I look like Ma Barker. Really. LOL!!!

    Ciao Bella,

    Ardee-ann

    • LOL, Ardee-ann.

      I love your quote, “I don’t really plan so much as evolve.”

      That is perfect for the way my life works! My writing too. My novels aren’t planned, they just come into being as I go.

      Thanks so much for sharing this great sentiment.

  2. I hate being time pressured and always finish things well in advance of when they are needed. Nothing bothers me more than not being able to get prepared for something because I’m waiting for someone else. That said, I do complete some very good work when flying toward a deadline, I just don’t like the physical toll of headaches, dizziness and the general feeling of exhaustion that comes with it.
    Everyone has to find their pattern that works for them.

    • Cassandra,

      Projects are the only thing I’m organized for. And if I work with someone else, I’m almost always the first one done. While I fly by the seat of my pants, I hate being late.

      Please don’t confuse deadline pressure with laziness and the inability to complete. I know some people are like that, but I’m not one of them. I will get the job done and do it well. Just a little differently than those who stick to a tight schedule.

      Isn’t it funny how we are all so different? No wonder there are so many novels in the bookstore!

  3. Too much pressure and I will “fold” and go into a peaceful state of calm, probably not going to do well on that one…BUT I I catch myself right before the *sinking*, its great and I plow through with success.

  4. I’m such a PLOTTER. Until I have a game plan, I’m a little frazzled. I’m agile enough to make course adjustments, however.

    • Maybe I need to take your method under advisement. You seem to be having success with your plotting. Although I can somehow picture you as the glowing poster child for frazzled agility! Something every writer needs to succeed in the wonderful world of publishing.

  5. I tend to perform better under pressure too. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the thrill of being able to whip it out at the last minute but I seem to always manage to make it all work out somehow. Believe me, I have no idea how some days. I take that back, there have been days when I just know that the Lord above has gently guided all back on the right path. 🙂

    • Lisa, those are the most satisfying days, aren’t they? The ones where we surprise ourselves by accomplishing great things. I think if I planned for it, I wouldn’t get thesatisfaction that I do by flying in and getting it done. The outcome would feel expected. Or maybe I’m just a little touched in the head : )

  6. I crumble under pressure. I don’t like feeling rushed; it makes things worse for me. I’m ultra-organized because I like to be and because it keeps me sane! I love structure and schedules! In school, especially college, my research papers were completely finished days before they were due. 🙂

    • Laura,

      That is so funny. My big sister is that way. I admire her ability to know what she wants out of every day. She’s going to grad school and every once in a while she’ll call me in a panic to help proof her paper.

      “I am so far behind. I have to get it done today. Please help.”

      “When is it due?” Cuz if it were me, it’d be due at on Tuesday and I’d be asking for help Monday night.

      “Next week Wednesday.”

      Sheesh. I could write ten research papers in a week and two days!

      But it’s not to say I don’t wish I could be more organized in general stuff. I don’t even know what I’m cooking for dinner tonight. Probably won’t until 5:00. : )

  7. I’m kind of a mixture. Sometimes I do my best under pressure, because I don’t have the time to worry and stress and procrastinate. Other times, I waited too long, and I just get overwhelmed and do a sloppy job. Depends on what it is, I guess.

    And mug shots? Oh, boy. I live in another country now, and every year I trot into the stuffy police station crammed with people who don’t believe in deodorant to renew my visa. Every year, the same guy takes my picture.

    Apparently, I’m not good at taking photos. They’ll make me sit on this hard-backed chair, asking me to ‘sit up straight’, and I’m like, “Hello, I CAN’T sit up any straighter! I’m 5’2, not a giant. Lower the freaking camera.” Then they’ll snap the photo. “Move your hair, it’s blocking your eyes.” I move the stray pieces of hair. Nope, not good enough. They do it themselves with their grimy paws.

    They take the picture again. And again. And again. “STOP BLINKING!” (seriously, every year he asks if there’s something wrong with my eyes) By this time I have a headache the size of Alaska, and I just want to get out of there. Grrrr…. So eventually, I finish the picture that should take 1 minute but instead takes 15 and sign all of the paperwork. And without fail? It rains every year, and I get drenched on the walk back to the car.

    *exhale* Sorry. It’s my rant of the day (and also as long as your blog post)

    • Poor Mia.

      I feel your pain, but you wrote your comment so wonderfully I almost wet myself from laughing.

      “Apparently, I’m not good at taking photos. They’ll make me sit on this hard-backed chair, asking me to ‘sit up straight’, and I’m like, “Hello, I CAN’T sit up any straighter! I’m 5’2, not a giant. Lower the freaking camera.”

      That’s the bomb!

      Hugs~ cat

      P.S. Where are you living that you are lucky enough to enjoy the deoderantless, humorless police? Just wondering so I won’t be tempted to move there!

  8. I also thrive under pressure. Give me hard work and deadlines. I set up artificial deadlines for myself now just because I begin to mope if give too much time. ^_^

    • Barbara,

      You must have a better sense of motivation than I do. My artificial deadlines can be pretty flimsy sometimes! I just paired up with a writer who I hope will hold me to my weekly writing goals. Exchanges to occur on Tuesday. Guess what I’ll be doing Monday night?!?!?

  9. Loved the story of your great DMV picture! I have a similar picture too – I’m grinning ear to ear and look tremendously happy. Just thinking about it makes me smile 🙂 I’m pretty laid back, so if it weren’t for deadlines, I’d never get anything done. I work extremely well when I’m working to a deadline. It’s one reason why my writing takes a back seat to other things, sometimes – self-imposed deadlines just don’t work as well for me!

    • Belle,

      You just explained my life. I work well with deadlines, but those self-imposed ones are not always strong enough to keep me on track with my writing. It’s one reason I write whole books in one sitting, if you will. Because I don’t always seem to be able to “write an hour everyday”. My internal scheduling system doesn’t seem to work that way!

      Thanks for weighing in!

  10. Great story! Oh, and I’m so with you…I had a similar day today. I just felt like I was thrown a bunch of curve balls. I usually get a lot done when I’m under pressure…but it does make me stressed out along the way!

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Elizabeth.

      Curve balls are great for baseball games, but I prefer they stay out of my life! Hope today goes a little more smoothly.

      ~cat

  11. I don’t know if I thrive under pressure, but I definitely get more done when I’m busy. And big congratulations on the great DMV picture! Now I know it’s at least possible (like winning one of those trick games on a carnival midway 🙂 )

    • LOL, Kate!

      I figure now when I get pulled over the cops won’t recognize me. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

      Busy is good, but there are days I can consider myself busy when I’m curled up in a chair, sipping coffee and reading a book. The house falls down and DH comes home. “Sooo, what did you do today?”

      “I was really busy,” I say flashing him my new DMV photo grin. “Research is hard work.”

      ; )

  12. I hate deadlines and pressure, but I get a lot more done when they’re present. That’s why it takes me so long to write a book. 🙂

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