Letting Your Articles Marinate

Cue the famous movie guy voice: “In a world where writers are dependent on electricity and an Internet connection, panic is but one storm away…”

I’ve been without Internet and VOIP service for two days now and I’m beginning to get the shakes. We experienced the remnants of Hurricane Ike here in Central Ohio and while I was expecting a little rain, we got instead Ohio’s own version of a Category 1 hurricane  – crazy winds and lots of trees falling all over.

Which brings me to today’s topic: giving yourself enough lead time to let your articles marinate, because not doing so could be a recipe for disaster. Right now I’m in the just re-opened local library on their very generous Wi-Fi signal, however, I can’t use my cell phone to conduct interviews without incessant shushing and dirty looks. Luckily, most of my interviews for articles going in this week are complete and I can focus on tweaking and editing as opposed to holing up in my car for hours with a cell phone on one side and a laptop balanced on the other – that was last winter, but I digress.

How many of you would be in a dicey situation right now if you were in my shoes? What items do you have due that if power went out in your city right now, you’d seriously consider shimming up the utility pole yourself?

A lot of us work well under pressure, we can pull out a rabbit out of our hats if needed and get the assignment in under deadline, but how much stress are we putting on ourselves?

After many close calls and hair pulling episodes, I’ve submitted to the rule of thumb that setting your own deadlines – well before the item is actually due is better for my hairstyle and me. Articles are like great barbeque or spaghetti, they are always better after they’ve been given time to breathe and soak up the rich seasoning. Revisiting a completed article after time away gives you new insight to edits and corrections and an appreciation for your own genius.

So are you a slow roaster, slowly cultivating a great article or a deep fryer – quick cooking writing goodness?





18 responses
  1. Lori Avatar

    I definitely let them marinate when I can. I like to have them completed several days before the deadline so I can revisit them with new insight right before I submit.

    I do put things off often, but living abroad right now my internet isn’t as reliable as it was in the States. I’m always worried about losing it right when I need it.

    Hope things are up and running again in your area soon!

  2. Joe Avatar

    This sounds good in concept, but in reality most things get done at the last minute — because a deadline is the only reason they get done. I think most pretend will often let the “pretend” deadlines they set for themselves slide, because there really isn’t penality for doing so.

  3. Mildred Avatar

    I’m in Ohio too, so I can definitely relate to the inconvenience of being at the library yesterday, trying to talk on a cell phone to someone who was in NY, wondering why my phone line was so “staticky!”

    I would have to say I’m a slow roaster as far as the idea/prewriting/rewriting stages but it’s always down to the wire–deep frying– for me to get it all finished. Don’t know if that’s bad or good. But I seem to work better under a little pressure because I get to finally put a cap on it and say it’s finished. I’m a perfectionist so sometimes the more time I have to labor over it, the less likely I am to find a lede quickly or be able to wrap all my ideas cohesively around my thesis. I can’t have a lot of extra time because I’ll overthink it or overresearch–then still have to worry about whittling it down because of focus or word count.

  4. RobinMarie Avatar

    I work best under pressure – always have – but I still try to get things done early so I can go over them and see what types of changes need to be made. While it doesn’t always work as best as I’d like, I usually have at least a few hours to let the article set before I revisit it, which works well for me.

    I hope the power comes back on soon for you guys. I hate being without internet for even 20 minutes – even when I don’t NEED it.

  5. hana Avatar

    “Articles are like great barbeque or spaghetti, they are always better after they’ve been given time to breathe and soak up the rich seasoning.”

    Nice quote. I’m fast when it comes to actual writing, but I let something simmer for a little bit. A fresh perspective always helps.

    If the power/internet goes out, I have a back up plan. My boyfriend lives close enough but in a different city. If all else fails, I have an open invite to use his place as my back-up office.

  6. wombat Avatar

    You guys who work well under pressure have no idea how lucky you are, because when is there not pressure? I do NOT work well under pressure, and to me, ‘pressure’ includes “several days before the fake deadline that I imposed on myself that is a large chunk of time before the real deadline.”

    I find that writing always gets better when I go away for a while and come back to it, and that may well be true of barbeque as well. But, while spaghetti sauce should be given plenty of time to simmer, I would never give the actual spaghetti time to soak in it – my Italian grandmother would spin in her grave!

  7. Dionne Obeso Avatar

    I try to at least give myself one night to sit on a finished article so that I can complete one last copy edit with a fresh mind. My husband sometimes also does some editing for me when I’m crunched for time, like last week when an interviewee flaked until the last second.

  8. Dani Avatar

    I guess I am the odd man out here – I try to get them done asap so if something happens – like a power outage or family emergency, they are either in, or close enough to completion that I have time before the deadline to work out the details (where to get internet access and such).

    I’d be totally hosed if I let them ‘marinate’. 😀

  9. Hazel Avatar

    I work both ways. I’ve been a deadline reporter for too many years, but I try to reserve that for spot news. When I’m doing data analysis, I crunch numbers and let them sit for a few days before taking notes. Then I write, rewrite and edit. If it’s an interview piece, I try to transcribe and let that sit before writing.
    Deadlines do get in the way, though. Sometimes you just have to do it!

  10. Leigh Avatar

    I recently learned about this the hard way. “No Internet?” No problem; I’ll just go to the library.” Turns out you can only use the library’s Wi-Fi signal for two hours per day max and if you don’t have a laptop, you’re limited to using one of their computers for just one hour. By the time I checked all my e-mails from clients and responded to them, and sent out completed work, I had NO time left to start anything else that was coming due.

  11. Cherrye at My Bella Vita Avatar

    You lost power in Ohio? Wow. My parents in Texas aren’t expected to get their electricity back until October 6!

    I let my articles sit. I never send it off immediately after I’m done. Even if the most I can give myself is an hour or so in between, I’ve found they need that.

  12. Kathryn Avatar


    GREAT article! I really enjoy your voice.

    As for the pressure thing – since there is a conspiracy between the utility company and the cable company to turn my computer off when I get in those tight situation, I try to stay ahead of the game. That way I can laugh when they flip the switch!

    But, I will confess that I still find myself lingering around doing nothing while deadlines close in. I was always a last minute project person – started in junior high and continued through college. That is one habit I NEVER want to pass on to my kids.

  13. Jewel Allen Avatar

    I’ve done both.

    My blog posts are essays, so typically, I think about a topic I want to write about, and it’ll come together in my head for a few days. I try to think of an anecdote/real-world experience that I can tie in to my topic, and it’s always fun when I can. Then I write the article usually in one sitting. If I think about it too much, my article comes out stilted.

    Ideally, I let the essay sit overnight. In the morning, I usually catch my typos, then post.

    Witty titles are best marinated.

    And then again, there are a few times I just whip something up, just for fun, and post it.

  14. Terreece Avatar

    Hana- Good backup plan, though I don’t know how my hubby would react if I went to my boyfriend’s house for Internet HA!

    Dionne – Yes, my hubby is a great editor, that definitely comes in handy.

    Cherrye – It’s looking like Sunday around midnight for the majority of of central Ohio, Oct 6 is ghastly!

    Kathryn – Do we have the same power company? Hmmm…I love a good conspiracy!

    BTW folks, I’m back w/o Internet! It came on to tease me. Now I’m working outside the library in the car because they don’t open until 10. Sigh. It could always be worse though!

  15. Phil Avatar

    Not a good time for that quote, been offline/out of business for three days due to storm/flooding. Have sumps and backups, but cap of sewage cleanout exploded. I don’t like Ike.

  16. Ann G. Avatar
    Ann G.

    I try to arrange my work so that I have stuff that can marinate and other things that cannot. One of my more recent jobs involves proofreading courtroom documents and with that there is no room to delay. I have to have the error list returned no later than the next day.

    What I’m finding is that printing this stuff out and then leaving early to do the high school carpool pick up works out perfectly. I bring the papers with me, sit in my illegal parking spot (no parking at this high school and the police–so far anyway–have been good about letting people park in the lot of a vacant business. I show up about half an hour early and then get to work.

    I live in the northeast and in the winter, power can go out for days if there is a blizzard or ice storm. There’s nothing you can do about it. And, trust me, if the power goes out in the winter, you have more important things to be thinking about than the Internet. Keeping warm enough and your pipes from freezing is the bigger concern.

  17. Roxie Avatar

    Hey, little story here –

    I live in Cincinnati, and it’s been crazy, of course. Sunday night, I was at a Kroger cashier station using an outlet to charge my laptop and work on a major essay due Monday. (I had planned to finish the essay Sunday, and then finish the other parts of a huge fellowship application package Monday, and send it out on deadline). Then I spent all day Monday at Panera, something like ten hours staring at my computer screen. When I walked in, though, it was a complete zoo… line all the way to the door, giant multi-plug systems in their limited outlets, some people using ceiling outlets (if you ask me, you should seriously add more outlets when you offer WiFi!), and it was loud and full of people. I joined a guy in a booth where an empty outlet was nearby and spent the day there. Sometimes making friends and conversation, most times working and focusing really hard.

    BUT GET THIS. Just when I was ready to send everything out, their WiFi signal died. I left and used the one at my mother’s place of business, and it all worked out. But I was panicking initially on Sunday… I spent a half hour trying to figure out how to use a special car charger to charge my laptop, but that wouldn’t work. Eventually it came to the point where I had to say “I’ll sit on the floor in the middle of a grocery store if need be, I just have to get work done.” Luckily I had a stool from the photo development area, and a surface in that cashier station – and a snack/bottle of water, of course.

    I did actually meet my deadline – despite all the difficulty – leaving me feeling very capable, powerful, and proud!

    But you know what? Sunday’s break from working probably gave me that little time away from my essay that I needed. I did work a little bit, but not much (writing notes by hand when you become so used to doing fast work on your computer feels so much slower than you are capable of sometimes – although it can be nice, of course, to have that time to think, when you’re NOT on deadline.).

    Hope you enjoyed the story of my little fiasco. Now, I’m off to catch up further.


  18. jen Avatar

    Terreece, Roxie, Mildred:

    It’s been a wee-bit crazy in Ohio has it not? I’m in a south suburb of Dayton. Had power, but no phone or internet all week. There are still like 43,000 people w/o power and I think the phone company is powering my signal off a battery at the box. We don’t really expect that kind of weather up here and it has been insane, but my heart really goes out to those people in Texas with no homes to return to.

    Here’s hoping this week starts off better than last….

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