A friend in my community asked me how I balance Odyssey with other things in my life. Considering how important writing is to me, and also considering how busy we all are, I figured it would be a better endeavor to dedicate an article to it.
So here goes.
First, some background: I've gone through high school, college and now adult/working life and have never stopped writing. I know exactly how busy you are and how frustrating and difficult it can be to juggle it all.
But fear not. There are ways.
1. Make time.
This ain't no joke. This ain't even negotiable. If you want to write, you're going to have to carve time out of your daily schedule. When you're a college student, you have to do this around the five trillion things you're already scheduled to do. You have to eat meals, go to class, do your homework, hang out with friends, talk to mom on the phone, sleep and most importantly, spend time with God. How in the world are you going to find time write?
Well, it's in there somewhere. When I was in high school, and for the first two years of college, I got up every day at 6 AM to write. Junior year onward, I got up at 6 AM to exercise (UUUUUGH) and then luckily only had classes after 10 AM, so I wrote after breakfast. This is the power of habit.
THE POWER OF HABIT.
I put that twice (and in really big font) so you understand how vital it is. If you start forming your writing habit now, it will never die. This extends beyond college, beyond internships and beyond those initial job interviews. You're going to take these habits with you for the rest of your life. The only way to write is to simply make the time to do it.
2. Get your homework done.
Hopefully that sentence didn't make you wail in agony.
But the gist of the message is this: homework is super important. You're in college for a reason, and that's so you can do what you want with the rest of your life. You don't want to compromise that with anything else while you're still in college, not even if it's your undying passion (as writing is mine). Please make sure you're getting your homework done before you write. Even if that means compressing your writing time to 30 minutes before bed, or the 10 minutes before each class, then at least you know you're not putting your education in jeopardy.
Also, it will make writing a heck of a lot less stressful. You try sitting down to write a short story while that World History paper is sitting untouched. Yikes. Your creative mind will thank you if you've already cleared your responsibilities beforehand.
3. Write what you need to.
This one is the easiest. All through high school and college, I fluctuated between full-blown novels and smaller projects. Sometimes, I could only focus on one at a time, and at other points, I could switch between three or four. These ups and downs depended on my schedule. If my days were strict and had almost no spare moments, I would allow myself to write tiny things that didn't take long, but still produced creative output (flash fiction and poetry are amazing for this). If my schedule was a bit freer, I could devote more time to major novels.
If you find yourself growing creatively frustrated, just sit down and write something. Even if it sucks, it's important to keep those habits going. In the long run, you're still doing yourself good. Writing is therapeutic in a lot of the same ways dreams are. They help you organize your thoughts. They help you escape into other worlds for a little while. They give you power. Write what you need to.
4. Cut yourself some slack.
You'll have weeks where you don't write a single word. You might even go for a month or two. I've been there, and it's easy to guilt-trip yourself and sink into a pit of existential crisis. However, any writer will tell you that there is no magic formula for being able to write all the time. In fact, no one can write all the time. At least twice a year, I have long stretches of uncreativity, and it's torture. But I know I'll get through it. I know that at the end of the awful tunnel is another stretch of bursting productivity and ideas. I live for those stretches.
So cut yourself some slack. Your passion shouldn't wear you down. It should build you up.
5. (Odyssey-specific) Plan ahead!
I've been writing for Odyssey over a year and a half now, and I've learned some important things along the way. First, keep the above four points in mind. Second, plan!
-Keep a running list of ideas you get throughout the week. Jot them down wherever you are and keep them handy for reference later (especially when you get to the day before your deadline and you're like "AAA! What do I write about?!")
-Try writing a little each day for Odyssey. Pop open the Content Creator and add a couple sentences. Then go away. It feels great to be able to go away.
-Ask for help. We're a community, after all. Bounce ideas off fellow writers and see which feedback sparks your interest. As I've said in previous articles, writing friends are priceless. Use them to your advantage! (And we are always more than happy to talk about writing. It's what we do).
-Mix it up. Don't like writing about the same topic over and over? Write about EVERYTHING. Life gives us a lot of things to write about, after all.
-Or stick to a theme. Do you have a lot to say about something? (Sort of like the way I have a bajillion things to say about writing?) Then write about that! You can even do what I did and set up a blog for your specific audience. Mine is called The Feather Pen, and it's gained a lil pack of followers in the past year. It's another great way to build that social media repertoire.
These are the most important pillars as far as balancing writing life and other life goes. There are probably dozens more I could cover, but these embrace a large amount of them. If you have any more, don't hesitate to share! Writers should always support other writers.
Now go write!