Deadline Party #2

Two years after the first Deadline Party, the niggling voice in the back of my mind started up again. “You’ve always wanted to do XYZ… So, remind me – why haven’t you done it yet?” Well, because [blah blah blah ELABORATE EXCUSE blah blah]. It’s not that I can’t. Pffft.  I could if I wanted to. It’s just that I haven’t… yet. It’ll happen in its own time, though. You’ll see. You can’t force these things…

Last time thoughts like these took hold I created the Deadline Party to give me some incentive to do the XYZ – which back then was to be able to play Rachmaninov’s Prelude in D Major (which I did, btw). This time round, my XYZ was to write and record a song. I knew I could, I was just a matter of putting my mind to it. But “putting one’s mind to it” is hard when you have no time, no motivation and no purpose.

Enter: Deadline Party #2.

After consulting with friends, it seemed everyone was keen to do Deadline, round two. So, the date was set – 13 October 2012; invitations were sent, and an interesting variety of goals were declared on the Facebook page wall – from building a robot to writing poetry and overcoming a fear of swimming.

And I pledged to write my song.

Three months passed in an instant.

I’m not usually a crammer, but I think I secretly left it till near the deadline because I needed that build up of pressure to make me leap into action. While I enjoy writing music, nutting out a complete song and recording it is a different story. It takes discipline. Cramming was the only way.

And so, two weeks before deadline with only a few free days up my sleeve, I dug out the recording gear, relearned how to use GarageBand, plugged in a microphone, brainstormed some lyrics, mucked around with some riffs and began laying down some tracks.

I ran into the usual problems that in the past had stopped me from finishing something like this – technical issues; my voice not sounding like Florence Welch’s; my MIDI trumpets not sounding as funky as Earth, Wind and Fire’s; the thought that – “if this isn’t going to be a hit, why bother?” But I persisted, and on the day of the Deadline Party, as I laid down the finishing touches that would make the song listenable, the resounding thought was: “Take that, negative thoughts and amateur music technology skills – I did it!”

Once again, the Deadline Party was an incredible night that reminded me just how awesome, talented, brave and lovable my friends and family are. Each person faced their own demons in some way; and – as I said in my Ignite talk, while we all may not have “perfected” the thing we set out to do, the fact is: we did something. Something meaningful.

Below is a deadline-by-deadline account of what everyone did. Admiration, pride and amazement abound.

Chelsey’s deadline: Learn to swim

After developing a fear of swimming when she was young due to ear trouble, Chelsey decided it was high time she learnt how to freestyle. In the three months before deadline she began doing laps at her local pool and not only overcame her aqua-phobia, but honed a decent stroke and breathing technique.

At the Deadline Party, each Dead Head gets 15 minutes to present what they’ve achieved, and Chels used the time to create a symbolic representation of what swimming is for her now… a piece of cake.

Pete’s deadline: The Three Peaks Challenge

Always up for an extreme physical challenge (and a good story to tell), Pete set himself the goal of climbing the three highest peaks in the Blue Mountains in under 48 hours, known as the Three Peaks Challenge. One week before deadline he headed out with his mate Steven (aka Moo) on a drizzly Friday night, with little more than essential meals and emergency blankets in their packs. After climbing and descending the first peak, Mt Cloudmaker, things turned awry when the GPS’s battery ran out, bad weather closed in and Moo twisted his knee. The boys made the smart decision to head back, and while they didn’t complete the Three Peaks, they have an incredible survivalist story to tell.

Mike’s deadline: Build a robot

As a lecturer in astrophysics and a father of two boys, Mike doesn’t have a lot of time to spare for personal projects, but we got to see one of his ideas in the making at the Deadline Party. Mike’s always wanted to build a robot from scratch, and his deadline was to create a robot with seeing eyes that will eventually be able to identify and pick up objects of various colours. He’s made a start with this little creature… maybe by the next party we’ll see the finished product?

Ally’s deadline: Write poetry

My sister Ally is an awesome writer, but as with many who have an artistic passion as well as having to work and be a parent, she doesn’t get a lot of time to indulge in it. Her deadline was to write three poems, using the deadlines (and possible prize money) of three poetry competitions as extra incentive. Ally read out two of her poems on the night. Incredible!

Mel’s deadline: The double dare

Mel set out to do two things: one work-related (a mega teaching assignment) and one personal (to put an end to her dud dating experiences and find a nice guy!). She did both.  (L-R: Ally and Mel).

Mark’s deadline: Make a movie

Mark Grentell is co-writer, producer and director of a feature film, Backyard Ashes, to be shot in Wagga during November 2012. On the night of the Deadline Party he gave us a glimpse into the enormous amount of work he’s put into getting the movie off the ground – from writing the script to sourcing funding, casting and filming. The movie – which you are obliged to see because it will be awesome – will hopefully hit the big screen in mid-2013.

Rhianna’s deadline: Learn to do a headstand

A yoga class devotee, Anna suffers ‘pose envy’ whenever she sees the star pupil at her local yoga studio effortlessly unfold into a headstand. As such, mastering this advanced asana became her challenge. All was going well until a bedroom training session resulted in a near-neck injury (a warning to all Dead Heads: don’t die for a Deadline Party!). Needless to say, we didn’t get a demo on the night, but we did get a very theatrical retelling of her headstand-practice journey.

Lauren’s deadline: Learn to play the guitar

Initially, Lauren’s deadline was to be able to play “Tuna in the Brine” by Silverchair on the guitar – not having ever picked up a guitar previously, mind you. After taking lessons every week for weeks, the goal was slightly downscaled but still TOTALLY AWESOME. While Loz didn’t master Daniel Johns’s freakily complex chords, she did learn to play “Stand By Me”, which she performed on the night as we all sang along. With that chord progression, she’s now equipped to play 90 per cent of all pop songs ever written. A genuine success.

Kate’s deadline: Quit smoking… forever

This was it – Kate’s public declaration to kick the habit. Saying it out loud in front of friends made it more real.

My deadline: Write and record a song

A cross between pop, funk, honkytonk and cheesy girl-band groove, my song – titled “Too Hot to Fuss” – probably won’t find a place on mainstream radio, but hey – it’s written. Another deadline down!

Lisa & Emil

These guys couldn’t make it on the night, but both set themselves some pretty impressive deadlines. Lisa ran a marathon (amazing!) and Emil – after what we all imagine was years of waiting for the best moment to do it – proposed to Lisa on the night of the Deadline Party. Incredible! Congratulations, lovers!

Dead Heads at dinner

(PS: If you want to host your own deadline party, get in touch.)

What would your deadline be if you had a Deadline Party?

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