Magazine article Risk Management

Dead Lines

Magazine article Risk Management

Dead Lines

Article excerpt

As I type these words, this column is well past its own deadline, and every hour it remains out of production makes it harder for my team to finish producing the issue. Thus, I have buckled down to write this editorial, even if it kills me. That's a phrase we often use--"even if it kills me"--but there is some teeth to it. After all, that is precisely what took the life of novelist George Orwell.

In 1945, following the success of Animal Farm, Orwell felt the need to isolate himself in a primitive farmhouse on a remote island in northern Scotland. There he endured brutal winter weather, no electricity or running water and an already flail constitution while struggling to write what would become 1984, his sixth novel. Pressured by his publisher's deadline to submit a manuscript by the end of 1948, Orwell worked nonstop, even after falling ill from nearly drowning in a freak boating accident. He put off getting any proper medical care until he finally finished 1984 and submitted it before his deadline, but in so doing, he ruined his health and never quite recovered. 1984 was an instant literary hit, but Orwell never got to enjoy his success. He died in January of 1950, scarcely a year after his book's publication, at the age of 46.

In struggling to finish his masterpiece, Orwell truly made his deadline even if it killed him. As tragic as that is, at least he gave the world 1984 before his passing. Many other authors--Geoffrey Chaucer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Dante Aligheri, Jane Austen, Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming, to name a few--died before finishing their greatest works, leaving their readers with only dreams of what could have been.

Book lovers call this "author existence failure," and it speaks to the worry many fans have that an author they follow or a series they love will die before a particular work reaches its proper artistic conclusion. One can just imagine, for example, how distraught Harry Potter fans would have been had J.K. Rowling vanished before she wrote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Surely Rowling's publisher would have been even more distraught, given the amount of money that was made publishing Rowling's six previous novels.

As it turns out, more than a few authors have struggled to manage the risk of their own mortality and its impact on their publishing careers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.