When I was headed to college for the first time, I was convinced that I was going to have more time than ever to edit my contemporary novel, write my mashup novel project, blog stronger content, and build my author platform. I compared my crazy high school life to the one I estimated I'd have at college. It would work, and I was so sure. At the time, I had an informal agreement with a literary agent who was skeptical of my confidence, but she too eventually agreed that I should have plenty of time to write, or at least enough flexibility to make it work. At home, I was attending three schools, working three part-time jobs, and being an active member of my ten-member family. Not to mention that I had hobbies and I sort of enjoyed to sleep now and then. I had added up all the hours and figured out that I'd have more time to write at college than at home. I was convinced the math worked.
Problem is, I suck at math.
Or rather, I grossly underestimated the demands of college life.
Writing quickly got squeezed out of my life, and I got overwhelmed by how far I had misjudged being a college student. I learned that writing couldn't be my life. Studying had to be my priority. Plus, I had friends to invest time into and a job to work hard at. My life had shifted chapters, and writing wasn't the focus of this one. It was frustrating.
Your life won't stay where it is forever, and writing may not always be the most important thing. You may not physically have time to write what you want, to invest creatively in your stories. Most of you will reach a point where writing can't be your life, and I have learned a few things that I hope might help you through that shocking reality.
Write what you love. When writing can't be your life, the times you do get to write may be sparse. Make sure that when you get the chance, you write something you love. Enjoy the story. Enjoy the characters. Have fun with your project. You need to be able to treasure your writing time, so make sure you love it. If you don't love it, put your story aside and brainstorm something new. When writing can't be your life, it's vital that you enjoy what you are doing.
Write when you can enjoy it. Sometimes setting goals like, "I'll write fifteen minutes every day" can be good. However, the stress of squeezing that time in late at night can easily suck the fun out of writing. Do everything you can to find time to write, but do it when you can enjoy it. Don't put an undo amount of weight on a particular time of day if are making yourself miserable. Get creative. Find a place you enjoy writing, whether that's a coffee shop or even a friend's house. Experiment and find a time and place where writing is fun and productive.
Write without deadlines (if possible.) If writing's not your life at the moment, that probably means that you have other things demanding a lot of your time. School assignments, work, and family all require all a lot from you, including strict schedules to be kept. All these things are good, but be careful not to turn writing into another item to be checked off a list at a certain time. If at all possible, don't give yourself deadlines. Don't tell yourself that you need to have 20,000 words or certain number of chapters written by a certain date. What this does is allow you to separate your writing from the other aspects of your life. You'll treat it differently, therefore you will be able to enjoy it more.
When I went away to college, I didn't want to accept the reality that writing couldn't be the focus of my life. When the course of your life shifts—because it will—you may find yourself in a similar situation. You may not like that—and boy can I relate!—but if you write what you love, write when you can enjoy it, and write without deadlines, you should be able to squeeze in some writing here and there and maintain an excitement and joy for the process.
I hope that you never stop writing because you're a writer, and that's what you do whether it's a small part or big part of your life.
Have you had to deal with writing taking a back seat in your life? What have you found as encouragement in those times?