If you’re getting close to starting a college career, you might be wondering: how much writing will you have time to do? On one hand, you probably will have time for other things besides homework if you prioritize them (homework tends to take longer if there’s open time in your schedule it can expand into). If you prioritize grades though, you may not be able to spend much time doing non-assigned writing, which might seem problematic. However, as a college student myself, I can say that it’s actually not.
For one thing, there will be times in your life when you maybe shouldn’t prioritize fiction writing, or whatever it is you enjoy writing that doesn’t count for grades. If going to college partly for the experience is something you want to do in life as much as writing is – this was the case for me – then it’s okay to prioritize it for the time being. While letting your novel sit a while won’t cause much harm, skipping assignments and lowering your grades may not be a great idea. And there are other things you might want to do as well. I work part-time to help pay tuition, help run two student organizations, and I’m currently working on building more of a social life, because I realized I’m not going to have many memories of my entire four college years if all I do is just hide in my room doing homework all the time. Writing is one part of your overall life, not the most important thing, and it’s okay to focus on other things sometimes.
That said, you may be more concerned about making steady progress as a writer without setting it aside too much for years, so here are some possibilities and tips.
- Don’t discount breaks and summers. At my university, we get four or five weeks in winter, plus a full three-month summer, and Thanksgiving and spring breaks. A person can do a lot in that time. Sure, you won’t get as much done as if you worked consistently all year, but like I said above, if school is important to you then it’s a good balance. One person can’t be doing everything all the time.
- Your college work itself might be practice. I’m an English major with a creative writing emphasis, so while I often don’t have time for non-school writing, I’m getting some creative writing, experience studying literature and writing in a more analytic/technical setting, and professional skills as the president of Creative Writing Club and the social media person for another student organization. While not directly related to writing, the people knowledge I gained in my psychology and sociology classes is useful for characterization. I’ve used what I learned about the real world in science classes to world-build more accurately for speculative fiction. All sorts of subjects are useful to us as writers if we’re paying attention. So while I’m probably not making progress on a novel, I’m still working on writing during the semester.
- You can work on other aspects of being a writer, and/or do small things. Spending just five minutes in the morning to write 100 words every day can add up to a surprising amount of progress long-term. Or you can spend a few minutes a day engaging with the Twitter #WritingCommunnity or other groups of writers/readers, and building connections for later. Or you can be an alpha or beta reader for someone – depending on the person and project, that’s not a huge time commitment.
I would also like to point out that we humans need sleep, whether or not we actually acknowledge that fact. Please, for the love of pasta, keep your brain in shape and get a healthy amount of sleep at night. Writing dedication is admirable, but it’s not worth your health if you don’t have time for both it and getting a semi-decent amount of sleep.
All that to say, prioritizing writing long-term doesn’t mean you always have to prioritize it short-term, and just because you don’t have time for project X or Y right now doesn’t mean your writing is on hold. There are smaller things you can do, and your other work can very much be of benefit, just in a different way.
Comment below if you have thoughts!