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juggling writing stories, and an education

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devora, Jan 16, 2014.

  1. Devora

    Devora Sage

    I'm currently enrolled in college in my town and I'm going for journalism,, but I have one problem: I find that I'm having a rather hard time juggling writing stories and trying to focus on classes.

    Is there any advice any of you could give on how to better manage my time with my studies and with my stories?
  2. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    Any advice given would be incomplete. We would need to know a few more details:

    How many hours a week do you work?

    How many hours a week do you study?

    How many hours a day do you sleep?

    How many hours a day do you socialize?

    How many days do you typically have off a week?

    Do you own a laptop?

    Is it always with you?

    I ask these questions because some people try to put too much on their plate at one time. If you are one of the blessed people that have weekends off, there may be other solutions for you.

    No matter what advice you receive, know that something has to give. If you want to write more, you will have less hours for other things. Of all the possible things to sacrifice, socializing and sleep will be most likely candidates.
  3. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    If you're working as well, lunch time is a great time to get a few minutes in to write a bit of a scene or get a bit of world building done. I have written on plenty of lunch breaks, as I find an hour way too long for eating a sandwich. I did get a lot of my story writing done in English 101/102 since I had to repeat those classes because credits didn't transfer properly state-to-state. Grr.

    I found one of the things that really helped me in college was to get ahead in the "easy" classes by reading three or four chapters ahead and taking good notes, so that when I went to class I had my notes to refresh me on what I read and that way I could focus on the harder classes. That might free up some time for you as well, if instead of having to read three chapters a night and writing three papers a week you get ahead on as much of that as possible.

    The other big thing to keep in mind is discipline. I know from personal experience that I'd much rather be playing Angry Birds than ever study for a mid-term or write another paper on Frankenstein. (I have written four papers on Frankenstein for various English classes. I will never write another one ever again. Never. Again.)

    Email/texting/facebooking will cut into your time as well. When you set aside an hour to write turn everything off. It helps so much! If you really need a lot of extra time, only visit email/facebook once or twice a day. I can't tell you how many times I'll sit down to write and realize that I just used half an hour of my writing time to write a non-essential email.
  4. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

    The best advice I could give you - having never considered it at all whilst I was still in college - would be to just do. You're going to find yourself with downtime here or there. Maybe a free period between classes, waiting for a ride, whatever the case may be.

    When you find your mind lolling around, just a tad bit bored, put it to work. You don't have to write a finished product, but notes for a later dedicated writing session could make that session go faster.

    The words sound simple. I know they're not. But I wish you the best of luck!

    Personally, I was terrible at juggling my time. In fact, I worked roughly 60 hours a week while trying to dodge and weave between a usual load of 12 -17 credits. What it always came down to for me was that night before it was due - pounding madly at a digital typewriter (and eventually WordPerfect for DOS) until I had a story/poem to turn in the next day.
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Everyone struggles. It's in the end though about priorities. There are only so many hours in a day and you're going to be doing something in all of them. The trick is to be selective about what you do during them. So for me cutting back on tv and replacing it with writing is a huge thing. And for the most part what tv I do watch is dvd - no adds so you get through a series faster.

    But as a student you can also take classes - creative writing etc - in which you can sometimes make one thing - say a story serve two ends, i.e. writing and grades.

    Cheers, Greg.
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    For myself, when I was going to school, I took a writing class, so writing was part of school. But other than that I pretty much stopped writing when I was going to school. I did manage to scribble a page here or there in the library while taking a small break from studying, but those scribblings didn't lead to anything.

    My reasoning was that I was paying to be in school, and anything that distracted from that, I had to set aside. It was all in or nothing for me. I was the guy who had every chapter read and every suggested exercise done twice over by the time a course was done. I was striving for A's and I wasn't satisfied with anything less. IMHO part of the process of university is learning to learn on your own and learning to be disciplined and be your own taskmaster. How to set a difficult goal and achieve it within a time frame.

    These are a lot of lessons that I apply to writing, and now that I'm finished school, I'm all in on writing.

    As I mentioned above, I stopped writing, but I didn't stop trying to improve as a writer. I took electives that kept me in the world of stories and the world of ideas. I took fiction classes, where I expanded my horizons in what I read. I took philosophy classes to the point of only being a few credits short of a philosophy minor. With philosophy, I learned to think about things from different angles and from another view point other than mine, which have been very helpful in my writing.

    And again, if possible, try a writing class or two.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
    Ophiucha likes this.
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    If you really want to write, you have to make sacrifices to fit it into your schedule. If that cuts into your time surfing the internet, watching your favorite shows, or doing any other thing that takes up time, then you have to cut those things out. When I was in school, I had a part-time job as well as full time course work. That didn't give me much time to write, but instead of playing video games or reading, I would take the downtime I had to write. This means you may have to break away from only writing on your laptop or computer if that's what you normally do. A notebook can be the busy writer's best friend.

    I agree with psychotick to take creative writing classes for your coursework when you can. That makes it so you have to write or you don't get a grade. Whatever works. For me, I took a creative writing course every semester even if I wouldn't get credit for it. My degree was in English with a Creative Writing emphasis though, so there's that as well.
  8. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    On a technical note... If you are using a laptop/tablet etc to write... don't use one connected to the internet.
    Nothing cuts down on limited writing time like checking Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter etc. [even Mythic Scribes - ahem]
    I carry a paper notebook [and pen] and use the voice record on my phone to take notes wherever I get the idea.
  9. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I didn't have a weekend job when I was in university, so I just... wrote on the weekends. I sometimes wrote during lunch breaks during the week, too, but most months I was busy enough with school work that I didn't try. If you do have a busy weekend, do you have lighter days during the week? Maybe you have labs on Monday and Wednesday, but not Friday, and can use that time on Friday as your designating 'writing day'.

    Always carry a spare notebook (or just keep your laptop updated with your story notes, if you use it) in case you're watching a movie in class or are reviewing a test you did well on and can spend the hour brainstorming some worldbuilding ideas.

    Also, even if you can't write as often as you'd like, try to keep up with pleasure reading. My best friend, also a writer, has had that problem since she started college - she only reads for fun over the summer and the Christmas hols, so her craft has come down a bit as a result despite still being technically gifted at writing (after all, essays are a form of writing and they do help you maintain and improve your skills in grammar, syntax, and diction). I started listening to audiobooks when I went to uni, because the only spare time I had to read was on the bus or walking around campus.
  10. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    For me it was so important to do well at university that it was my main intellectual focus. I'd occasionally have a go at writing but only when there was definitely time. After all, the vast majority of writers are going to make a lot more from their day job than the writing gig so it's important to take that seriously.

    Also, for me personally, the intellectual discipline acquired through focussing on getting through law school (and then a masters degree) did wonders for my creative writing.
  11. Hagan

    Hagan Dreamer

    Advice that harks back to when I last attended college (and Open University).

    Take notes wherever, whenever, however.

    Keep a notepad and pen on you at all times. Get an idea, write it down. Got a mobile phone? Smart Phone? Its got a note function. Get Dragon Naturally Speaking if its available for your phone, its a voice to text program, you can use it like a Dictaphone and secretary all in one (except it can't make you coffee).

    Once you have the notes and ideas down, you can free up your mind for the tasks at hand to study. Notes keep for years so its worth keeping them safe. When you are swamped with work, write when you can. If your lucky enough to have a tutor/editor who likes a little variation, use your creative juices (so to speak) in your journalism pieces. It can turn a bland piece into an interesting piece if done right (worth some study I feel).

    Writing doesn't always have to be a big thing either. Set yourself a word challenge a day, say 150 words a night on a story. Write it in sections, doesn't have to be linear, just the bits that stick into you mind. Once you have free time, go over the collected pieces and assemble it like a jigsaw until you find a flowing narrative and identify the places that need to be filled. Write character biographies, monster entries, descriptions of places or items, historical knowledge, whatever comes to mind, it doesn't necessarily have to be pure story. You may even pick up on elements that are worth exploring and expanding upon by accident.

    All of this you can do on the fly, during lunch, on a bus, sitting on the throne (use your imagination), and so on. Sooner or later you'll find yourself with a lot of free time before you and with that, a box full or paper notes and a data device full of random thoughts and musings to keep you busy with. And then the work or writing creatively can begin.
  12. HUnewearl Shiro

    HUnewearl Shiro Scribe

    I have to agree wholeheartedly with this. It's especially damaging to writing if you get onto a site such as TVTropes, just innocently looking for a little inspiration. All of a sudden six hours have passed, and you've totally forgotten why you were on the site in the first place, as well as what you were writing beforehand.
  13. LordDoubhri

    LordDoubhri Scribe

    I'm sure this has been covered above, but my advice is to make sure you're thinking about writing when you have the free time. I'm in high school, and I have loads of extracurriculars. When I do have an hour or two to myself, I often find myself using that time to relax, read articles, and basically just chill until my next commitment, rather than writing.

    Basically, I realized I have to block out my schedule, see when I have enough time available, and then dedicate that block of time to writing. I set reminders for myself on my phone, and only then do I start paying attention in physics class.

    Also make sure to set yourself priorities. When it comes to other extracurriculars, do they matter as much to you as writing? Do you need to go play CoD with your friend two rooms down the hall again? Of course, it's fine if you have stuff higher on your priority list than writing, just understand that you do, so that you don't beat yourself up for not writing when you were doing something just as important to you.

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