There are a lot of posts and articles out there about fitting writing into the rest of your life, whether that life includes things like a day job, a family, or other obligations. There are fewer specifically about balancing writing and school. But when I tweeted a little while back about possibly writing one, it seemed like there was a lot of interest!
I’ve been a student/writer for the majority of the time I’ve been writing. And while there are a lot of things about being a student-writer that also apply to balancing writing/life in general, there are some things that are special to this specific sort of struggle 😉
Now, there are a lot of different kinds of “students” out there. Writing during middle school is going to be different from writing during high school—which is going to be different from writing during college, or graduate school. For one, the workload you have from classes is probably going to increase as you go up the school system!
But no matter what kind of school you’re in, time management is always a big struggle. I know I was always trying to figure out how on earth I was going to get my schoolwork done, while getting my writing done…and also my extra-curriculars, AND still have time left over for some semblance of a social life.
One thing that helped me a lot was being less picky about my writing conditions. This is still something I struggle with, but the more “must haves” you need to write, the less likely you are to get your writing in. People often say things like “Oh, I just have to have my cup of tea next to me to write,” or “I really need a perfectly quiet space,” or, “I absolutely HAVE to have my story playlist playing,” but when you’re a student-writer, it’s much less likely that you’re always going to have those things handy.
I did a lot of writing in the extra 30 min I had in between classes in college, seated wherever I could find a nice spot. I also snuck writing in between study sessions, and sometimes even during lectures (shhh, don’t tell my professors).
Of course, most people to have “ideal” writing conditions, under which they do their best work. For example, I can write in 30 min stretches, but I really prefer to have at least 1-2 hours free (meaning I don’t need to be running anywhere/leaving my desk during that time). So another way to get more writing done is to arrange the rest of your schedule (whenever you can) to optimize this writing time. If you’re in college, and you know you write best first thing in the morning, try not to have early morning classes. If you’re like me, and like having big blocks of time to write, schedule your classes all together, so you have the afternoon free, instead of little 30 min-1 hour breaks in between your classes.
This isn’t always possible, though—and becomes even less possible when you factor in things other than classes—so it’s a good idea to at least try to train yourself to write outside your “ideal” conditions.
On the flip side, you can also squeeze out those ideal conditions by doing other things during those “un-ideal” times. Don’t like writing during the afternoon? Do your studying/house-cleaning/shopping/exercising then, so your plate is free at night. Again, this doesn’t work as well for things like hanging out with friends 😉
On that note, do go hang out with your friends. There are a lot of awesome opportunities you get as a student, opportunities you might find harder to get after you’ve graduated. Go explore them! I’m not saying don’t write (I mean, if you don’t write, that’s okay, too, but if you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’re like me, and couldn’t stop writing if you wanted to), but definitely don’t feel bad about missing writing to go live your life. (especially if you’re not on-contract! After you’re on-contract, the writing-obligation becomes a little stronger ;P)
Overall, writing while you’re a student is a pretty awesome experience. Often, being a student means that you’re constantly being exposed to lots of new ideas and experiences that can help inspire your writing. It can also mean that, however busy you are with school, you do have a little buffer room that might not exist once Real Life hits post-graduation. I wouldn’t trade the writing/publishing experience I had while in school for anything 🙂
What do you guys think? Any other tips/hints you’d give to student-writers?