Well, not a fable really. More of a myth. The myth being that the merciless deadline is anything but your friend. Instead, learn to love it.
For the client
There is no surer way to kill the creative process than to refuse the concept of a deadline. And I know your “There’s no rush, just get to it when you can” comes from a good place. Yes, we’re busy people. No, we can’t always get to your project immediately. But you’re not actually doing anyone a favour when you don’t put a timescale on your work. Your project will automatically go to the bottom of the pile because that spare hour-when we should be getting to it, never comes.
For the creative
Firstly, don’t let them get away with it. Every project has a deadline and they shouldn’t keep it from you. Demand a deadline if you have to.** If you use a standard creative brief form, make sure that the deadline boxes are prominent and unavoidable. Prepopulate your form with “_ _ /_ _ / 20_ _” to reinforce the message* and send back the form if that field isn’t filled out.
And if they still won’t give you a deadline, impose one on them. More importantly, impose one on yourself. Get in the habit of saying “you will have this by…” and stick to it. Write dates and times next to every item on your to-do list.
For if you don’t, the deadline-less project will languor at the bottom of your pile forever. And nobody wins when that happens.
‘ASAP’ is meaningless and counter-productive. It does no-one any favours and it prevents proper scheduling, ultimately leading to missed deadlines. Avoid it in your workflow and don’t tolerate it from others.
* Some clients will print your form and write “ASAP” over the top in marker pen. In which case, I don’t know what to tell you.
** Be nice. They’re trying to do you a favour.