How Not To Let Life Get in the Way of Your Writing

You’re on the train, bus, or driving home and an idea hits that you have to write down. But then you can’t, because you’re too busy driving. Or the next song on the radio zaps the idea out of your head. The bus hits so many potholes and sudden stops that your handwriting becomes a mangled mess even you can’t decipher. Your phone is about to die, and even though you don’t really need to listen to music to drown out that baby crying in your train car, closing Spotify to save enough battery to write in the Notes app doesn’t seem worth it. You promise yourself that you’ll remember by the time you get somewhere calmer, because it’s a really good idea.

But when you do finally reach your destination, you have to put water on the stove to start dinner. Before you can do that, you need to do dishes that have been in the sink since the night before. The mountain of homework and emails to respond to looms in your backpack, just out of sight. Your roommate is watching your favorite show, an episode you haven’t seen in awhile and one that will de-stress you instantly.

Before you can even sit down, they gush about the day’s drama, and before you know it, it’s ten o’clock. You’ve answered the emails, cooked dinner, given advice to your roommate, and watched more episodes of that show than you meant to. You go to get ready for bed, but then you remember a glimmer of that idea from your trip home. It’s there on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t remember the part worth writing down in the first place. You’re sure you’ll remember in the morning so you decide to just go to sleep. You wake up, and the cycle starts over again. We’ve all been there.

Life can really get in the way of writing if you let it. Writing is one of those professions (or hobbies) that takes time to curate. Process is everything, and without a good one, you can stumble into self-inflicted writer’s block before you know it. Here’s a few tips to hold yourself more accountable for the craft that you love so much:

1. Plan ahead

If you know you’ve got a particularly busy week coming up, set aside a few hours to let yourself de-stress through writing. Not only will it feel like a break from other stressful things, it’ll leave you feeling productive and in control. Whether you’re preserving phone battery for a writing session on the train or staying on campus longer to write it down, if you plan ahead, you won’t feel rushed or like you’re wasting time. This can eventually lead to a routine you maintain even when you’re not busy and just need a little structure.

2. Prioritize

Yes, we all love coming home and watching TV while eating dinner. Yes, we all love going out with friends after work. Yes, we all love taking naps as often as possible. Sometimes those things are necessary to the process of finding a useful mental space for certain pieces you’re working on. Other times, taking a night off from those activities can give you time to do some of your best writing. Though it might be tough going against your usual schedule, you could find a time for writing that works best for you.

3. Use your free time to your advantage

 As someone who rides public transportation at least two hours a day, I’ve found that people-watching on the train can lead to some great writing material. Using time I’d usually spend on my phone or zoning out to write keeps me on track after busy days. Utilizing time between classes, work breaks, and other moments to get a few words down can do wonders to keep stagnation away and keep your mind in a creative place. I’ve had teachers and fellow students who’ve written full movements on receipt papers and guest checks. Though I’ve never gone that far, doing a little journaling during my lunch break is therapeutic if nothing else.

4. Take yourself seriously

 You take your school work seriously. You take what you do at work seriously. You should definitely take writing seriously! Even if it isn’t your job yet, treating time spent writing like time spent at jobs or internships is crucial. Whether you’re working on novel material, a personal essay, or just journaling for your own sanity, time spent doing this can lead to writing you’ll be proud of. Giving yourself permission to take a piece seriously means you’ll get your work to an exciting place more quickly.

5. Make it fun!

For a lot of people, writing is a fun hobby they want to explore before making it a career, and that’s a useful way to see it—like a hobby. Don’t take the fun out of it! Writing should be something you look forward to doing, whether during a break at a coffee shop between classes or going home after a long day and journaling to unwind. Looking forward to spending time with the page is important because even though it’s work, it should be something you enjoy doing and something that makes the time you spend worth it. Take a few nights off if you need to get in a creative headspace for your next writing session.

Writing is a craft that you have to dedicate a lot of time to. It’s not always easy to sit down and get through draft after draft or to journal when you don’t feel that inspired. If you make time for it, though, writing can become something you rely on to get you through the hard times, instead of it stressing you out more. By keeping it fun while still putting in good effort, using your time to your advantage, and planning ahead, taking time to write every day will become the most relaxing part of an otherwise hectic week.

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