Heya, TWNers! Welcome to or welcome back to Teen Writers’ Nook! Now that it’s September, school is back in full swing for many of us. I don’t know about y’all, but one of the biggest challenges I face is being able to transition back into a regular routine and still find time to write. And while many times you’re encouraged to just take it easy and wait to take time for writing when life calms down or when school is on break, this option isn’t always as feasible. Maybe because you want to continue taking time for your writing to see growth now rather than waiting until you’re older and holding down a job, raising a family, and/or taking on more responsibilities. Or maybe, you’re like me, and with a pressing book deadline just around the corner, you don’t have time to wait until semester break. No matter what your problem is, I’ve gathered a few tips on how to balance school and writing, many that I’ve found to be super helpful for myself. Let’s dive in!
#1. Make sure to take care of yourself
i feel i have no right to say this
Before we jump into any of the tips, one thing is very important to remember. Your health matters more than any novel, writing sprint, or deadline. It’s so easy to get caught up in goals and plans and deadlines that we tend to skip over one very important part of life, and that is our health. But, the irony of the situation is, taking time to make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and exercise well will actually improve your overall day and make you more productive. Because if you’re over-exhausted or feel sluggish, you’re not going to be able to move at the same pace that you could. The same goes for eating healthy, because making sure you have a well balanced diet will help give you the energy you need, so please make sure to take care of yourself. You can take it from a girl who knows that these things like sleep and food really do matter.
Trust me, I’ve overlooked these things plenty of times and it never ends up well.
#2. Set aside writing time
Back in the spring of 2022, I had the best writing season of my life. I managed to research and write the first draft (coming in at about 70K words) in a month and a half. I was taking three college classes and this was the second half of the semester so I also had a handful of big papers due at the same time, and one of those papers I wrote was actually ten thousand words long. (
I’ve been told I can be excessive at times.) On top of that, I had a family vacation and was taking dance lessons so I wasn’t holed up in my room writing all the time. Compare that to my latest novel that took me eleven months to research and write the first draft for.
So what happened in the spring of 2022 that worked so well?
I got up a couple of hours earlier every morning during the school day to write. While there were days I missed, such as some of the time on vacation and when I had a big paper coming up, I was mostly consistent at showing up every day to write. The secret to that semester’s success was that I actually set aside time to write. I realized that after a long day at school it was easier to watch YouTube rather than work on my novel. I wasn’t being disciplined to find the time on my own, so I had to make it for myself. Those couple of hours before school was my writing time, and having a specific scheduled amount of time made me feel more motivated to write. So one of my best pieces of advice is to find the best time of day where you think you will be able to write and make it your time. It doesn’t have to be every day. It can be in the morning, after lunch, or in the evening, and it can be as long or as short as you want. Only you know your schedule and what works best for you, but don’t go into the school year thinking that writing time will just magically appear. Something else will almost always take its place.
If you want to write, you’ve got to make the time for it.
#3. Make Goals and Be Accountable
Note: make realistic goals.
Maybe you would really, really, really love to finish your novel in a week but you have a load of school, chores, and extra activities and that just isn’t going to be possible. Be honest with yourself. Maybe you can only write one day a month, but maybe that’s also one more writing day than you had last year! It’s not about writing as much as you can as fast as you can. It’s about showing up even in the midst of a busy life. And setting goals can be a great way to get you motivated as long as they’re ones you believe you can actually do. (Otherwise, you’re going to end up discouraged.) For instance, my goal for this semester is to be able to write an hour a day, five days a week, but this is flexible because I know that when big school projects come around the corner, I am going to have to take more time for that.
Finding someone you can be accountable with is also a great way to keep yourself motivated. Maybe this is a writing buddy, a friend, or a family member. It can be something as simple as having someone check in with you every week to see if you met your goals and what progress you’ve made. If there’s one thing writers love, it’s talking about our books so having an accountability partner can make you more enthusiastic about achieving your goals so you have something to share when it’s time to check-in.
#4. Use notebooks/planners
Need I say more?
Seriously, though, I used to be the type of writer who hated writing notes down and carrying around a notebook, but that all changed when I realized I couldn’t keep up with everything going on in my life. I was forgetting important things and found myself going into a panic attack before bed as I suddenly remembered something that I HAD to do… three weeks ago. If you’re finding yourself in a similar problem, find yourself a notebook or a planner that will help you stay organize. It’s surprising how well it works!
#5. You don’t have to write every day
Before you get too excited, I’m not about to give you a reason to procrastinate writing.
sorry, pippin XD
So I touched on this in an earlier point, but I feel it’s important to stress this reminder. If you’re getting stressed and overwhelmed by your schedule, writing does not have to be something you do every single day. The purpose of this post is not to get you set up to write like a full-time author who does nothing else in his life, but instead to get you to find ways where you can spend just a little more time writing this year than the last one. Writing can actually be a way to relive stress rather than add to it, but if you’re feeling pressured to write every day, then I’m here to be the first one to say: you do not have to write every single day. I know very few authors (even published ones) who are not able to write every day, and that’s okay. Only you know what you can handle so don’t push yourself to take on more than you’re able.
#6. Plan what you’re going to write before you write it
Have you ever had those times where you actually find a moment to sit down to write, get your computer and notebooks ready, open your novel and then be like…
So instead of having a great session of writing, you end up staring at a blinking cursor for an hour. You found the time to write. Yay! But you didn’t actually make any progress. No yay. 🙁
The easiest solution to this problem is to plan what you’re going to write ahead of time before you sit down to work. You don’t even need to take extra time to brainstorm. You can do it while your folding laundry, doing the dishes, in the car (as long as you’re the passenger… if you’re the driver, keep your attention on the road please!), anytime you have a free moment! Whether you full blown plot out the novel or choose to come up with ideas scene-by-scene is up to you and your preferred writing method, but having some type of plan in place can help save headaches down the road and make the most out of those rare writing moments you find.
and save you from the no yay
#7. Be kind to yourself.
please excuse how cheesy that sounds
Finally, good intentions are awesome, but life does happen and while we might put ourselves on schedules, life isn’t on a schedule. You may not get to write as much as you want or make progress as quickly as you were hoping. Maybe you really, truly intended to write, but it’s been a long week and you just want to take a moment to chill and read a book or watch a movie. Filling your creative energy is just as important as writing so make sure to give yourself grace if plans don’t go the way you want them to. You’re doing your best, and that’s something to be happy about!
So do you have any writing goals for the rest of the year? Do you have a hard time balancing school and writing? What’s your go-to writing snack? Are you a notebook user too? I want to hear all about it in the comments below!
Until the next post,
Stay awesome and keep writing!