Pema Donyo is the author of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter. She is also a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she's still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and... college. Find Pema on Twitter, Goodreads, or her website.
I write because, like most writers, I have a consuming and compulsive need to write. That passion pushed me through the writing, editing, and publishing process of my Young Adult romantic thriller The Innocent Assassins (Astraea Press, June 2014) and my historical romance One Last Letter (Crimson Romance, August 2014) this past summer.
But I’m also a college sophomore who feels buried in schoolwork on a daily basis and who wants to go to the Saturday night party as much as the next kid. When my friends find out I spend time writing novels as well, the question that immediately follows is usually: “How do you have the time?”
I don’t. Do any of us? As students, we’re all incredibly busy. It’s not about having enough time; it’s about finding enough time. The following tips are a few that help me maintain my productivity as a writer and keep me producing new work.
1. Set small, daily goals. Whether it’s 100 words edited or 100 words written, make sure your daily goal is manageable. Even if you decide you only have ten minutes to write on a certain day, those ten minutes will add up over time.
2. Write down your writing goals in your planner as if it’s actually homework. Crossing things off a list is always helpful for me, and encourages me further to finish everything that’s on the list. When you treat your writing goals like actual homework assignments, it helps you finish them faster.
3. Form your goals in advance. If you jot down your writing goals like homework on a planner, you put more pressure on yourself to follow through with your intended writing plans. When editing The Innocent Assassins during my freshman year of college, I thought I could decide on a day-by-day basis how much I would edit. Because I never quantified how much I was planning to revise, it was easy to keep putting off the chapters I needed to edit and let them accumulate … until my publisher’s deadline approached! Time is never going to “slow down.” There’s always going to be another homework deadline coming up; there will always be another party you want to go to. Planning your goals in advance makes accomplishing them much easier.
4. Vacations = writing time. Even without those daily writing goals, sometimes there’s still barely enough time to hit up the dining hall for two meals a day or finish all your homework assignments. I’ve been there – especially during finals week. That’s why fall break, winter break, spring break, and summer break are all great opportunities to catch up on writing or increase daily writing goals to finish more of your manuscript.
5. Make time for your friends and family. Time spent with them is just as valuable as time spent with your WIP. They will end up being some of your staunchest supporters once you start sending your work out into the world, not to mention your soundboards when you experience rejections or bad reviews. And sometimes, one of your friends may just be the person to encourage you to continue writing when you feel discouraged. Writers don't have to be solitary figures; it always helps to have a support team behind you.
The most important thing to remember about balancing writing and assignments and a social life is that there is no perfect balance for everyone. Different schedules work for different writers. Just enjoy whatever stage you or your writing process may be at right now, and just keep writing.