Hi guys! So, this is my final semester at the community college I've been attending for a few years now. It's been a slow progress since I've only taken two-three classes a semester, but that's Ok cuz that's the pace I work best at when it comes to classes: Slow but steady. Anyways, the beginning of this semester was pretty easy. I started a Children's Library class and that's been fun.
But anyways! This post isn't about me complaining about my classes and all that. I was sort of spoiled over the summer with all of my free time and I got into the rhythm of just being able to work on whatever writing project I wanted, to put all of my energy and focus into that project instead of dividing up my focus between writing and several different classes plus life stuff. Within this first week of me mentally rearranging my schedule and what days I need to get what done and all that, it made me realize how important it is to make time for writing even with all of this going on. So here are five tips or self-care ideas that pertain to writing when life gets busy. It's not so much specifically for those in college, but just for when life gets really busy and you feel overwhelmed and like you won't have any time to write (obviously that isn't so true for me because here I am, writing a blog post). Also, I write a post almost exactly like this one when I first started college.LINK and here are my five tips now, four years later and in my last semester of college:
1. At the top of my list is making time for writing. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but when things get really stressful and busy I tend to get stuck in my own head. My thoughts go crazy and my anxiety spikes and my brain feels really full of stuff. Stuff that isn't writing and I've realized how important it is to make time for writing. I know myself well enough that last week after finishing draft 4 of Blood Brothers, that I was going to be too stressed and too busy to really throw myself into hard revisions. I knew that I was going to need a character and a story that was going to get me through this semester, or at least this first month. Maybe it's just me, but when I don't get to write, don't get my word count in for that day or the amount of pages I had my heart set on writing for that day, I get really frustrated with myself. It really sours my mood and makes me pent up inside because I didn't get my creativity out that day, I didn't get to get out of my head for an hour or two and forget the world and live in another world. The act of writing isn't just something that I love and enjoy, and I am passionate about, it's something I need. Getting out of my own head and tuning out of the world around me to write is something that I need to do during the day, even if it’s just for half an hour. Afterwards, I feel better and a little more relaxed. So, on Sunday I broke through my writer's block that I always get after finishing a big project and came across my first ever male main character: Charlie Frankenstein. It's sort of a spin-off of the Sterling Silver world and I set it up a little bit in Blood Brothers. Nothing huge or anything, but just a little mention of a monster hunting family with the last name of Frankenstein. Charlie and Sybilla and this story has already helped me this week to make me smile and just get out of my own head. So, long story short, make time for writing. If you can, carve out even just half an hour of writing every day, even if that means getting that half-hour in at ten-eleven at night. Last night I ended up writing till eleven and it felt so good.
2. Use music. I don't know about you, but I can't stand complete silence. Maybe it’s because I've grown up in a house with four brothers where there is something always going on. A TV is on or someone is talking or yelling or playing or doing homework at the table. Even upstairs in my room, more than a few times a day I hear someone doing something and yeah, sometimes that's annoying, but I don't know what I would do if I didn't have some form of noise. Music is always on. If I'm not watching a show or a movie or some tutorial or something for class, then I have music on. One of the first things I do when I start a new story, I make a Spotify playlist for that story. It's one of my favorite things about starting a new book. And then I proceed to listen to that playlist, kind of obsessively, until the book is finished. Even now as I write this post, I'm listening to my Frankenstein playlist. When I write Charlie's story I listen to the playlist, when I'm cleaning up, I listen to the playlist, when I edit and revise this story when it’s finished, I will also be listening to this playlist. It just keeps me in the mood of the story and of writing. So, even when I'm not writing and when the day is super busy I still feel connected to my characters and after you listen to the same songs long enough while writing the story, your brain sort of equates those specific songs with that specific book and it helps you come up with ideas throughout the day. Your subconscious is always working and I feel like music can help out that subconscious brainstorming us writers do every day. So, when you have that new idea, make a playlist for your main character or your book overall and make it the soundtrack of your day.
3. Have goals. I'm a very goal-oriented person. Every morning I make a mental checklist of what I need to do, of what I want to accomplish that day and then I get to work checking those things off my list. Most of the time it makes my day very efficient and productive, but when I fall short and don't check one or two of those things off my list, I tend to beat myself up a little about it. Don't do that to yourself. It's not worth it. I'm learning to just say, you know what, I got a lot done today and tomorrow is a new day. But make sure to have goals for your writing. Small ones are very helpful for busy weeks. Even like write 300 words today and if you go beyond that limit then you feel even better about yourself. I was saying in my Instagram post last night how, before I knew that most writers went by word count, I used to measure my writing goals by page count and during busy times, I slip back into that habit. So last night I was at page 48 in my WIP and I told myself Ok, just get to page 50 and I will be done for the day. I'll have completed the goal I set out to finish this morning. I ended up writing for almost an hour and by the time my fingers paused on the keyboard it was eleven at night and I was at 56 pages. Make those easy goals and don't feel the need to go beyond those goals, but if you do, it just makes you feel a little bit better about yourself.
4. Stay present and manage your time wisely. For me, I have a hard time turning my thoughts off. Since this math class started on Monday I have been obsessing over all the work I have to do. I jumped weeks ahead, freaking out about the three exams and the project and the quizzes and all the work I have to do next week and the week after. Please, don't do that. Don't be me. I'm learning to try and tell my head to shut up and just focus on this week. Manage your time so that by the end of the week, you have the weekend off and can just chill. I know a lot of people not only take classes but have jobs and that makes this whole weekend off thing a little (sometimes a lot) hard, but if you can it’s great to get to Friday and check the last thing off your list and look forward to a weekend to reset and be ready for the next week.
5. Don't freak out. I'm trying to tell myself that. It's not worth it. This class isn't the end of the world, that thing you have to do and are stressing about? It isn't going to kill you. I have a deadline. December fifteenth. After December fifteen I'm done, I never have to worry about this math class again. So why am I freaking about it? It's just not worth it because this class isn't going to ruin my life or effect my life after the twelve weeks of taking it.
This past Sunday our pastor was preaching about living a Word-saturated life. A life where you are in the Bible and interacting with the Word and with God as you do. He read in Psalms 119 but the verse that really got to me and that he really touched on was Psalm 119: 37: Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. He then went on to say everything should be worth less than God and his Word. Not worthless. But worth less with a space between the two words. As in those things take second place. God should take first place. I've been thinking a lot about that this week as I freak out about all the work I have to do and trying to make time for writing. I plan to do my best to excel at this class, or at least get a passing grade. I'm going to finish all my work every week when it is due and do my best at getting a good grade in all of it. But when it comes down to it, this class is worth less than God. All these assignments and math equations are worth less than spending time in His Word and with Him. That doesn't mean I'm going to throw all of my math and library sciences assignments out the window and use that as an excuse to not do my work. It just means that I need to change my perspective to, yes, this stuff is important, and I have to complete this and pass these classes, but God is on top and everything I do should be for Him, which is why I want to work hard at my assignments. But really, those things are worth less than Him and, I don't know, that thought just makes me feel a little better for some reason. I guess maybe because it gives my anxiety and stress over these things less control over me. There's just a comfort in knowing that He is first and as long as I try every day to put Him first instead of these things that are worth less than Him, that I'm doing something right. And that includes writing and I know that and that's more of a struggle than putting God above my classes because writing is a big part of my life and something that I spend a lot of time on. It's something I'm working on and, I don't know, I guess I just hope that that gives you some comfort or encouragement too. This sort of turned into a mini sermon, but I just thought it was relevant to my fifth tip.
So yeah, those are my five tips. They're more like rants, but I hope something in there is helpful or encouraging or useful to you. Have a great weekend everyone!!