Dear Reader, I’m about to learn just as much from this article as you are because I’m currently writing to you from the first day of class of my senior year of university. I’m stuck in the library thinking “how the hell do I do this?”
Whether you’re in high school or college, this article covers how to balance your time as a writer and as a student. Read on for five tips and motivation hacks, plus a note on procrastination. I’m wishing us both luck.
1. Academics Come First
I know writing is more fun than homework, but please don’t sacrifice your grades or sleep for it. That means get nine hours of sleep for most of you high schoolers. I’m an “adult” now and I still need 8.5. You’re only going to have high school once, while your time for writing stretches much longer. Hang out with friends, do the social thing every once in a while — COVID friendly, of course.
Study! I’m in college and it really does take priority over my writing.
All this to say, make sure you don’t sacrifice too much of your time on writing. And please, please sleep.
2. Work With Your Schedule
A popular saying online is that to be a writer you must write every day. Not only is this untrue, it leads to burnout and toxic productivity. Yes, some writers write every day, but with homework and classes you might find it hard to keep up. Instead of stressing about writing every day, work with your schedule.
Writers have to be good at finding time to write. Routines are helpful, but not for everyone. Sometimes this means you write only on the weekends, or during lunch period or before you go to bed (I’m literally writing this sentence in between classes he hee).
You probably have dead space in your schedule spent in the car, walking between classes, on the bus ride home, etc. That time when you can’t have your laptop out but can still be thinking is valuable. Use it to brainstorm new ideas for your project or how you’re going to get through that plot hole.
3. Find Other Writers
…or follow them on socials. Having a writing partner can be helpful in motivating you to write and make progress, but I understand the introverted writer lifestyle. Reaching out to people feels awkward. I never volunteered the information that I was writing a book in high school, because we know what happens next:
“Can I read it?”
sigh “It’s not finished.”
What I do now instead is follow authors and book accounts on Instagram and YouTube. Seeing their progress or writing routines makes me want to write, and maybe it will for you too. Victoria Schwab gets real on her Instagram with the struggle of being a full-time writer. And sometimes she can’t write every day!
If you are the type to find other writers, look online for local clubs. Maybe your high school or college has a writing club you didn’t know about. Discord is another great option if you want to meet or chat virtually. Join The Young Writer’s Initiative Discord here!
4. Writing Events and Challenges
NaNoWriMo is the most well-known writing challenge. During the month of November, writers attempt to write 50,000 words. There are also more flexible programs in April in July called Camp NaNoWriMo. These challenges are great motivators for me to actually get words written. Last November, I somehow wrote 35K of a novel while writing papers and studying for exams. It was tough, but if I hadn’t been doing the challenge I would have written way fewer words.
Hungry for more challenges? There’s also StoryADay in May and September or MillWordy — a challenge to write one million words in a year! MillWordy was coined by Kate Cavanaugh on a community of YouTube called AuthorTube.
Or, if you’re interested in a mentoring program, try Pitch Wars.
5. Track Your Progress
Something I learned from NaNoWriMo is that I really like graphs and numbers going up. There were days during the November challenge I wrote 100 words just to keep the streak alive. Try tracking your word count or the length of time you spend writing for a month and see how far you’ve come. The progress of my past motivates me to keep going in the future. Currently I keep my own spreadsheet with my editing progress.
A Note on Procrastination
Behind every writer is a figurative little devil whispering “you can write tomorrow” or “you’ll have time later.” These statements are incorrect. Respectfully flick this devil away/tape its mouth shut, and write. Go on, do it. You can’t hurt it — it only hurts you.
Think you have writer’s block? Writer’s block can actually be procrastination in disguise. Writing takes discipline and showing up to the page. Your level of commitment to being a writer/author should be reflected in how much work you put in.
But it’s also important to keep yourself healthy. Be mindful of when you are at your limits — it’s okay to take breaks. It’s also okay to leave projects behind if you’re too busy. That doesn’t remove your writer status.
You are a writer as long as you feel like one, so don’t sweat it if your word counts are lower in the fall. Here’s your game plan: find a community, find pockets of time when you can write, challenge yourself with writing events, and track your progress. We at JUVEN believe in you, and we look forward to seeing where your writing takes you. Follow us on Instagram @juvenpress.
is a writer based in North Carolina. She attends writing classes of all kinds at UNC Chapel Hill and has a particular fondness for sharp imagery. In her free time, she drafts her own novels.