This summer when I was working, I’d get home after work, scrounge up some dinner and sit down to write a thousand words or do some editing. Every night. It was a routine that worked. But then, this fall I moved to Boston and started grad school and that’s meant some pretty major changes in the way I write.
Classes, homework, exploring the city, and a social life have all wreaked havoc on my writing life. Not only don’t I have a regular schedule, I’ve felt like there was no time to sit and write when there were a million and a half other things I could/should be doing. So, I tried taking a bit of a break from the project I was stuck on. I hoped I would develop more of a routine and things would settle down enough for me to have regular writing time again.
The problem then was that I hate not writing. It felt terribly strange not to be actively working on a project, like there was something missing or that there was something else I should be doing. I would get distracted at odd moments by the thought that I hadn’t written anything that week. And then I’d feel bad about it.
As you can probably imagine, this didn’t last very long. After a couple weeks I was putting off homework to fight with outlining. Also not the best plan in the world.
Balance can be difficult to come by, but there’s always a way to find it. It’s taken a while, but I finally think I’ve figured out a way to survive school, friends, and writing, again (somehow this was much easier in college).
Here’s a few things I do to make sure I keep writing:
-I bring a notebook with me and write on the subway on the way to school. This is also good for improving balance, but not so much handwriting.
-In between classes I grab a few minutes to jot down ideas.
-I use the time when I’m standing around waiting to plan out scenes in my head.
-After finishing homework for one class I’ll give myself half an hour to write before starting the next class’ readings.
More generally, I think it’s important to set goals for yourself. But also recognize that you won’t always met them and that’s OK. You can’t let missing one or two goals discourage you enough that you give up. Stay flexible, promise yourself that you’ll make it up later, and then actually try to do that.
Have a journal, a writing notebook, or even just some paper with you so that you can get something done during time that would otherwise be wasted. Carrying around a notebook is also great for writing down ridiculous quotes or the kinds of quirky behaviors we writers feed on.
Don’t get sucked into the wilds of the internet (but do keep reading Let the Words Flow!). It’s too easy just to zone out and then realize an hour has gone by and you don’t even remember most of the things you just read. Set time limits so that facebook doesn’t eat all your free time. All those pictures? Don’t worry, they’ll be there forever, you can look through them later, your WIP wants your attention more.
And don’t shy away from living life. Keep hanging out with friends, reading books and going to movies. As Billy wrote last week, you don’t want to end up brooding with no new sources of inspiration.
How do you all manage to make time for writing in a busy schedule? Do you have any tricks for getting extra time to write?
Jennifer Fitzgerald is the author of a middle grade fantasy novel, PRISCILLA THE EVIL, which she is currently querying. She is also is a Ph.D student in archaeology, focusing on East Asia. You can visit her blog here or follow her on Twitter.