Top Ten Myths #6- I’m an artist-I’ll decide when to deliver my music”

“How Do I Deal With Deadline Pressure?”

Many moons ago when I first entered into the business I vividly remember being panic-stricken about coming up with ideas on demand. At the same time I knew that if I didn’t meet the deadline I might never get another opportunity. I lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety.  I had stress for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In hindsight I realize that the anxiousness was due in large part to the fact that I was completely undisciplined and unorganized about my time.  I had no idea how to even approach the problem let alone deal with the situation effectively.

My mentor, Billy Byers, always used to say: “if you sit there long enough it will get done”. He was referring to the fact that most of us would rather be doing ANYTHING but sitting at a desk in a quiet room alone–for 12-16 hours a day. (remember- I started in the business prior to the advent of the PC). Needless to say I endured many, many sleepless nights.

Live TV has to be the most demanding job I can imagine. I would get an assignment on Tuesday for a show that would record on the following Monday and be on the air on Tuesday night. You have to be on your game because there is no time to do any rewrites. There was no time.  And, if I didn’t deliver my reputation would read: doesn’t deliver on time meaning I was unreliable and no one would risk taking a chance on me. I couldn’t afford for that to happen.

What did I do?

I learned how to divide the number of score pages (or minutes if I was composing) into the days available to create a benchmark of how much I had to complete each day to stay on schedule. For example: I have 10 days to a session or deliver for a final mix. If I have 40 minutes of music to deliver that means I have to do 4 minutes a day to make my deadline. If it were an orchestration I would divide the number of days by the number of pages and then create an excel doc to keep track of all the details. I became a slave to my spreadsheet.  I made a video about this that you can see on youtube.

The 15-Minute Deadline.

Back in the day I would write through the night to have music ready for pick up first thing in the morning. I would keep a small TV on my desk to keep me company and help remind me of the passage of time. I didn’t want to get “the stares”.  Did you know that you can fall asleep with your eyes open?  Many times the end credit music would wake me up on the hour.

When I really got stuck I would arbitrarily mark up the sketch into increments I felt I could accomplish in 15 minutes. That way I could kick myself in the butt if the alarm went off and I wasn’t keeping up.

I only used that in extreme cases. Whenever I had to do an all-nighter it proved to be very effective.

The point is this: to keep your sanity, maintain your health and relationships I strongly suggest learning how to be disciplined about how you spend your time. You can thank me later. 🙂

Coming up next: “Oh Great! I have to deliver on time AND BE BRILLIANT?”

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