Deadline or bust

PHOTO: Fraser Hamilton, Flickr CC-BY
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Mesabi Tribune.

“Deadline” is such a harsh word. “Line” seems to imply a fixed point after which some consequence is realized. And “dead” suggests that the consequence is death. You know, pass away, croak, kick the bucket, go to heaven, expire, breathe one’s last, succumb, bite the dust, trip the light fantastic.

Depart, transcend, buy the farm, change form, drop the body, ride into the sunset with the angels across the River Jordan. 

Wikipedia has a lot of these but I think you get the point.

I’ve been writing a historical nonfiction book for the past five years. Stay with me. The book is due to my publisher in four weeks. That’s 28 days. Or 672 hours. Or maybe 40,320 minutes is a better way to think of it. Man, that’s a lot of YouTube videos at best tangentially related to my work.

I’ve had deadlines before. Big ones. Little ones. But never one for such an intricate project. At this point I can’t even finish a text message without mentally adding footnotes. I use the word “moreover” at the dinner table. When my wife asks where I’ve been all day I just say “ibid.” 

Now, I’ve already committed a great sin. I’m talking about writing a book to people who are probably not writing books. No one understands better than I how little most people care about books, much less books that do not yet exist. Most Americans don’t read anything longer than a meme, and frankly a lot of folks just skim those. Are you reading this? I doubt it. So I predict no great basin of sympathy for my self-inflicted plight.

It’s like the veterinarian trying to explain the day’s work to a neighbor. 

“Ugh, I had my whole arm up that cow for an hour!”

“W … why?”

[frustrated groan] “Because! Jeez!”

The good news is that what I’ve written so far is long enough. Hoo boy, it’s plenty long. Like the mooring cables on a super freighter. The spool of rope at the hardware store. The terms of agreement on an Apple product. Or even like the Wikipedia entry on euphemisms for death.

Cash in. Give up the ghost. Curtains. Perish. To join the church triumphant and find everlasting peace six feet under.

There’s no looking back. No way to properly assess what I could have done to avoid this specific condition right now. It would take five days to read what I’ve written, so I just leave it all back there. Like a ramblin’ man abandoning yet another family. Is it good? HA HA HA! I think so? I tell you what, Pulitzer or Poolitzer it’s gonna be thick.

My problem is that the story isn’t done yet. I haven’t gotten to the big finish, the finale, the conclusion, the swan-song, the denouement, the ceasing or the desisting. I’m writing about a dead guy which means I’m honor bound to kill him before I can cash my check. But the bastard won’t die. 

Is that cold coffee or warm Mountain Dew? I can’t even tell the difference anymore. It doesn’t matter. Down the hatch. I’ve been listening to music with isochronic tones to focus. (nnChick nnChick nnChick). Hours slide by like parade floats. My office has no windows. What day is? Is this a dream or is that talking helicopter real?

One thing I’ve got going for me is the overwhelming sense of momentum that can only be compared to a semi full of collectable porcelain figurines rolling out of control down a five-mile hill. We are well past the point where giving up is an option. Only the road and everlasting glory remain. 

See you on the other side.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, May 2, 2021 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.



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