I am a student; I am a writer; I am stressed as fuck. The stress goes with the territory though, so I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.
Now, people are always talking about how hard it is to work and write at the same time, and I feel for them, truly. It’s stressful to have only yourself to depend on for your living, and that stress is only made worse by the writing deadlines you have to meet.
However, as a student, I can say that you really shouldn’t downplay the hell that is our lives, especially if you happen to be in a program that has nothing to do with writing. See, after coming home from class, students still have to study, or risk failing the course. An inconsequential detail that actually affects everything, because, like writing, you can never really tell when you’re done studying. Do you really know the material, or is your brain just shutting down? Did you study the right things from the textbook, or should you just read every single chapter, just in case? Is the professor lying to you about what’s going to be on the exam, or should you trust that all that information on diuretic drugs isn’t going to be tested?
Therefore, when do you stop studying and switch to writing? Add that to the fact that your mind needs to constantly switch between being creative and being analytical, and you’ve got yourself a chronic headache, not to mention hardly any time to write.
Now, that’s just for students in general. As we all know, there all also those students who are in engineering, or nursing, or science, or business who are still writers- but they’re writers who need to do research on writing. Because their programs don’t teach them about plotting, symbolism, character arcs or anything else helpful. Leading to sadness and grammatical errors…but also to yet more time away from sleeping.
So, here are some tips, from one student to another, about how to fucking organise yourself. Before implementing these tips, you should know that I’m…not exactly a pro at organising myself either. These are just little things that have saved me from pulling all-nighters every single night. That doesn’t mean I get enough sleep.
- Draw the line somewhere. Yes, studying is important, but at some point, you have to stop what-if-ing yourself, and start writing. You know your material, you’ve got your notes done, you’ve asked the prof a zillion times if that subject is going to be tested- get over yourself!
- Write wherever and whenever you can. I usually write on the train ride to and from school- so that’s two hours of writing down. Of course, I sometimes fall asleep…but that’s an accident, I swear! Is it my fault the seats are so uncomfortable that my bony shoulder feels like a pillow?
- Classical conditioning, bitch. You’ve heard of Pavlov and the slobbering dog? Well, become that drooling puppy; it helps with the procrastination, trust me. I did it by putting on a specific soundtrack of jazz music, and then forcing myself
to study/do school work. And then I have a different, much zestier soundtrack for writing. After a while, if you keep forcing yourself to study or write with these soundtracks, whenever you hear them, you’ll feel the need to study/write. It sounds dumb, I know, but it actually works. I hear the same principle applies with food- like if you chew gum when studying something, and chew the same flavour during an exam, you’ll remember what you studied better. But that just sounds idiotic to me; mint and studying never go together. You need to chew bullshit to write bullshit- everyone knows that.
- Plan ahead. I know everyone tells you to do this, and it never really works, but that’s just because you never actually follow your plan. Either that, or you’re not planning right. Don’t pencil in 8 consecutive hours of studying in one day when you can barely concentrate on the page for 5 minutes. That’s just impractical- try alternating activities every hour or so. Of course, that doesn’t work for me, because I end up just getting stuck on a pleasurable activity for too long, but you get the idea.
- Cry. Cry because you’re a student with student loans and your writing career is getting off to a rough start since you forgot to do your research beforehand. And then pick yourself up, bitch, and do your fucking work. Don’t be a wimp- you chose at least the writing part of your current predicament, so don’t fucking give in to self pity. Self pity is for porcupines, because only they’ve got the sharps to burst that bubble.
- Remind yourself that you’re a smart fucking person, and that no exam will stop you from achieving your goals. Seriously- self confidence helps. How many times have you been in an exam, nervous as fuck, and then failed it? Yeah, that’s not because you’re dumb or you didn’t study (unless that’s what actually happened…and in that case, study!), it’s because you were nervous. Getting good marks actually helps with your writing, because it reduces your stress. Duh.
Now, I need to go back to studying fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, and you need to get back to writing the fuck out of your story.
On the flip side, tell me about how you manage to balance work/school and writing? Which do you think is harder, in your totally unbiased opinion?