A year ago, Freshman Me started this blog about writing things. And more recently, I got my article, The Undergrad Novelist: 4 Tips For Writing in College, re-released under Stepping Stones Magazine after being approached by its publisher. I was understandably excited about my first officially published work (!), but came back to the article with new, suddenly somewhat disenchanted eyes. The advice I had given as a Freshman was no longer big news to Sophomore Me. As of this past year, I would say I have learned more about myself and my writing than I did during those two drafts I am now currently editing.
Quick summary on that: I am a dual-enrolled college student, honor society member, and a History major as of two years. I am also the mother of two and a half novels in the Faire Curiosities trilogy, which is making its share of waves around the interwebs. I have been writing in college since I started school in 2014, and continuing chronicling these adventures as I get better at this balancing act I have chosen to preform.
So, in yearly fashion, I bring you the sister sequel to my popular article, and four more ways to make writing in college a little easier.
- Make an Escape Space: I've already talked about what it takes to harmonize studying and writing, which is still something I follow in accordance with every semester's schedule. In the thick of the school year though, this starts becoming tedious: school and writing and sleep, writing and school and sleep- until you want to rip your hair out. This is why I develop an Escape Space: a place where I can go during the week to break the dullness and do whatever I like. It really can be anywhere; your room, your house, the bookstore a few blocks down. I've always turned to my nearest Starbucks, bringing my remaining homework, writing, my self-titled “Screw Off” headphones (pictured above), and whatever book I'm reading lately. I kill about five hours (and easily $20 on tea lattes and cookies) and usually end up getting more done in a single afternoon of unorganized time than when I'm running on my somewhat tight schedule. It can be an especially refreshing way to start time off, on that note. I always ring in my Spring/Summer/Fall/Thanksgiving break with a Starbucks Day.
- Keep Story Notes in Class:
Keep a notebook always, to this end- it's college, for God's sake. But try to designate a writing notebook and bring it out with your other things during classes. College is such an eye-opening place, and practically teems with the creative spirit books so thrive upon.
I carry these two smaller booklets everywhere, occasionally stuffing the smaller one into my boot (with pens) when it's really cold. Too many times have I been listening to lecture or working on something in class and that writing lightbulb clicks on. I try my best not to outright write in class*, much less disrupt the professor by digging through my purse for my notes. Spring of 2015, I actually drew up a full short story from a series of lectures about the Industrial Era (which also helped me get a 90% on the exam that followed). Come prepared for class and bring your tools. You'll need them both for lecture and for the creativity that it often sparks.
- Be Kind to Yourself: The best way I feel I can illuminate this point is through a story, rather than scolding you to eat right/sleep well/exercise. In my fall semester of 2014 (when I wrote the original article, incidentally), I decided to pull myself too thin. I was managing 12 hours of class for the first time, complete with a three-day-a-week 8:30am History and a five day Math. I was also hellbent on finishing my second novel's draft, so sacrifices were made. I wrote in the math class I was already struggling through* (a poor decision on my part), pulled late nights for the sake of it, and frequently ran on a schedule so incredibly rigid that naps only happened when sleep caught me unaware. I did not change my habits until I hit a week with three exams very unprepared. In trying to write my way out of stress, I ended up having full blown panic attacks. Not one, but two major “Ican'tbreathemyheartisgoingtogiveoutI'mgoingtopuke” sort of panic attacks while I wasn't home. Anxiety and I have had a funny relationship for most of my life, but I could tell then that something wasn't right about my habits.
I've respected my limits since then; please try to do the same. We are only human.
- Socialize With Your Writing: This advice comes as a double-edged sword, but one I recommend exploring. The inevitable result of writing at school is that people notice you writing in school. Teachers especially notice, I find, and have remained the most supportive source for what I do. My first English professor let me work on the novel in her class when I turned in assignments early. One Math professor of mine frequently asked my opinions on poetry after I told him I used it in my books. There was, likewise, a Psychology professor who insisted on singling me out during a discussion about “troubled artists and drug abuse” (thank you, I'm just weird. Not high), and another English professor who realized I wrote and proceeded to double work/critique on my assignments (won't complain about this though, since I passed with a 97% and actually learned a lot from this class).
The same will apply with your peers. For every classmate who simply asks for some pointers or tutoring with their latest paper, there will be a few who message you at 4am with their glorious story idea/first chapter/thing they want you to read. I have been asked to write papers and create whole stories for others (no, by the way. Just no). Polite declination after polite declination.
Still, I write openly and let people know what I'm doing. It's created some magical friendships and opened a handful of doors that I'm still in awe of. Plus, hey! People know to leave you be during you break too. Write proudly and learn widely, all through the semester, and you never know what can happen.