Back To School: Long Past Curfew

Hello my lovely friends! Today we have an outstanding visitor – the gorgeous Allison Mulder has agreed to pop by and chat schedules, schoolish responsibilities, and writing.

Here she is!

Long Past Midnight

When Jamie asked me to write a post on balancing school and writing, I’m not sure she was entirely aware of the nocturnal status I’ve held throughout my first two years of college.

Last semester, my schedule generally went like this:

Get up as late as possible. Class. Nap until next class. Nap until Lunch. Then stay up until about 5 AM (with another nap thrown in if I need it).

The people who lived on my wing those first two years (the people who’d get up in the morning and run into me on my way to bed) would be the first to laugh at the idea of me talking about “balance.”

The thing is, I was balanced.

Maybe not in the most healthy way, but I managed to find a schedule that worked well for me.

If that involved getting my homework done late at night so that I could socialize and have time to breathe during the day, then that’s just what I needed to do. I write better at night anyway. If it involved giving up part of my weekend, or giving up on a little sleep, I was cool with it.

Because here’s the thing—something that comes up again and again in every post I see about finding the time to write:

You don’t find the time, you make it.

Writing as a student means writing and doing homework, and maybe working for a paycheck, and socializing with friends to avoid (or at least delay) hermit status, and juggling all the other pressures of Things You Should Do while in school…

And chances are, you’ll come across people who consider writing the least important thing on that list.

You aren’t getting paid (at least probably not in the near future). You aren’t getting academic credit. So why on earth would you sit around writing page after page outside of class, for fun? Why on earth would you skip a social event to iron out plot details, and why would you bash out a new short story when that paper deadline looms mere hours away?

Maybe sometimes you feel like writing really is your lowest priority.

Because doing it all is hard.

It’s possible to write in school. I’ve done NaNoWriMo in school, I’ve finished drafts, I’ve poked through as much revision as I ever poke through at home…

But it’s hard. Really hard. And when your grade is hovering lower than you’d like, and when your friends are heading off to get ice cream or have a movie night, and when the scene you’re writing feels like crap to the point that even essay-writing starts to sound more appealing…

It can be easy to tell yourself that you’ll write once this big project’s over with, or maybe over the weekend, or over the summer.

And sometimes, maybe that’s what you need to do.

My writerly work for the day isn’t always writing. Sometimes it’s thinking through something I learned in a class that could be relevant for a novel someday. Sometimes it’s musing on how I’d describe random things I see on my way to class. Sometimes it’s taking notes on the quirks of my classmates right alongside my notes on Cultural Anthropology and American Literature.

Some days, I don’t do anything.

Some days, that’s all you can do.

You take those days as they come and try to make up for it on the days when you do have time, when the words are flowing, when you can afford to let yourself remember that writing is not your lowest priority.

Accept that you’ll have a few Nothing days, just try to keep it from becoming a pattern.

As I mentioned, I struggle with this too, and the schedule I’ve kept would obviously not work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a schedule that will work.

What’s important is that you learn for yourself when you can take the time.

For me, balance means looking at what objectively needs to get done, and what I want to get done, and then prioritizing what I personally need on a given day.

That could be carving out time to chill with friends, or it could be finally getting done with that essay I’ve been putting off. Or…it could be letting myself jot down story ideas for half an hour before I actually get to that paper.

I’ve had some fabulous story insights in the dwindling hours before a deadline crashes down on me.

Obviously I’m not saying you should blow off homework or your social life all the time, and I’m certainly not condoning a nocturnal lifestyle. Ideally, you don’t want any aspect of your school life to suffer.

But know yourself. Know when you can take the time to write, know when you can’t (and let yourself be ok with that), and know when you just need to.

Writing as a student—and writing throughout your whole life—means making the time for what’s important to you.

It means making your priority list reflect your priorities.

So if it is important to you, make it happen.

 

Allison is both crazy and smart y’all. And one hundred percent fabulous. Here’s a little more about her:

Allison Mulder can often be found stealing taller bookshelves from family members, scouring Iowa’s wilderness for fellow writerly types, or pursuing an English degree at college. With all this stealing, scouring, and pursuing to do, she sometimes forgets to blog. But she is steadily filling her laptop with YA fantasy novels and also tweets a lot. Check out her blog at http://thesilentpages.blogspot.com/ or yell at @silent_pages for not remembering to blog.

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