I had a deadline on Tuesday, which is why I didn’t get a blog up on Monday. Apologies to those few hardy souls who checked in with me. This deadline had been looming over me for the past several weeks. As it approached I felt more and more stressed about getting the job done, mainly because information I needed to do my part hadn’t arrived. I finally gave up waiting for it and tried to do my part as best as I could. I hate working without boundaries. It’s much harder to pull together a strong design when you don’t know the shape and size of the parts that will have to be included. It almost always requires redoing my work to accommodate it. The information finally arrived and I was able to get the job done in time. I made the deadline. But that started me thinking about the origin of the word deadline. I felt mentally dead by the time I turned in the job but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the original intent of the word. A quick check on Google gave me three possibilities.

The first dates back to Civil War times and refers to the area around a prisoner-of-war camp that was the kill zone. If a prisoner stepped into that area it was okay for the soldiers to shoot him. It was the dead-line. You were dead if you crossed it. That was a little too graphic for me. I didn’t want actual death associated with the term, even if mentally that was how I felt.

On to the next possibility, which comes from printing. The deadline was the area around the bed of the printing press where text wouldn’t print. A “dead” area. Okay, better. I liked that it was associated with printing/publishing. At least that is part of my profession.

The last possibility also had to do with publishing. A deadline was the time beyond which a story/information wouldn’t make it into the paper or magazine because it had to go to press. That makes two for publishing and one for prisons where actual killing was involved. I’m going with publishing being the origin. It fits with our profession and no actual blood is shed.

Deadlines are a part of our business and, no matter the obstacles, it’s our job to make them. But it’s frustrating when you rely on others to do their job timely and they don’t. I think we freelancers should unite and in future tell everyone our deadlines are actually two weeks earlier than they are. That way those people will get their part done in time and we won’t be mentally dead making our real deadline.

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