Classes started about two weeks ago, and I was on campus the full week before for leadership training. It’s a little hectic. You’d think I’d be used to this by now—I’m a senior in my last semester—but somehow I still find myself on the brink of exhaustion twenty-four hours a day, and my creative output has dropped to almost zero. Now, I’m a writer. Being uncreative for more than two days sends me into a spiral of crankiness and a string of consecutive existential crises.
Over time, including my years at summer camp, I’ve accumulated some techniques on how to stay creative in college, or on any busy schedule. There’s no guarantee these will always work, especially given the ever-shifting student’s schedule, but at least it’s a place to start. The important part is that I’m making the effort to keep the creative juices flowing. And if you’re at all creative or have a hobby/passion you hold important, you should make the effort too.
First, the philosophy. Writing is my thing—I’ve done it for six years straight and I’m about to receive a Bachelor of Arts in it. So, when you have an 8:00 a.m. class and you’re missing meals and sleep is hard to come by, remember what it’s all really about. Academic responsibilities are key, but neglecting creativity in the long run can damage the way you view your passion. I know I’ve come close a couple times. But I’ve also made the necessary adjustments to get back on track. With that in mind, here are a few tricks to remaining a good student but also remaining a good writer.
a) Make time. Schedule writing sessions as you would homework. The more serious you are about it, the easier it will be to find time. At first it can feel like a chore, especially when you only have a spare half hour here or there, but stay on course. Over time, your brain will understand what writing time is for, and will click into gear when you really need it to (well… most of the time). Don’t expect immediate results, but don’t give up, either. Like any healthy habit, you will be glad to reap the benefits when they come to fruition.
b) Take all mental energy into account. This is a little more abstract, but I fully consider daydreaming, listening to ‘muse’ music and sketching characters as writing time. If my mental capacity goes toward a story, I count it as creativity well-spent. Actual writing doesn’t have to make up 100% of the time. It’s all story-building and creativity-boosting.
c) Enjoy solitude. Writing takes focus, and it’s beyond incredible to have time for yourself just to kick back, put on your writing music and pump out a few good pages. This can apply to both of the previous tips; being alone can clear your head and hone in on the creative flow. Even the most social butterflies can benefit from an hour alone just to write. Especially in a busy environment.
d) Snack. This doesn’t strictly apply to writing, but hey, who doesn’t appreciate a good handful of M&Ms or Chex mix now and then? Portion it out so you get a piece of candy (or whatever you’ve got) for every certain amount of words or pages. It’s motivational and delicious!
Three years of college have taught me all these things and more. In all seriousness, academics should be priority, but please don’t underestimate the sheer importance of writing when you’re a writer. It will sharpen your skills, boost your confidence, and help you learn to tap your creativity when you need it most. By the end of the semester, you’ll have written all the words you wanted and more. It’s creative fulfillment, and you will thank yourself later for a job well done.
Plus, you can snack.