Saturday, June 20, 2009

6 Easy Steps to Maintaining Your Craft (and Sanity) While in School

Papers are building up like plaque on teeth. Extra curricular activities and volunteer work bring a burden, not to mention going to frat parties! Your brain has to settle after being jolted from one class to the other.

You sit at the computer and try to get those voices that have been nagging at you all day onto paper. The warming sun is drawing nigh, barely casting it’s rays through the sheets of Post-It notes sprawled over the window (History presentation: Oy!; French test: Mon dieu!).

Wincing as if you’ll turn to dust as the sun brushes your skin, you utter those six infamous words from your pursed, tired lips: “I’m too tired. I’ll write tomorrow.”

This is where I scream-(Noooo!)- and you plead for my help. Follow these six easy steps and you too will maintain your craft.


Being a young writer can get stressful as people don’t always take us seriously. Befriending other young writers can help reduce that stress. They understand just what you’re going through whether they’re in school or not.

With your “writing buddy,” as my friend and I call ourselves, exchange tips and criticism. You can meet writing buddies anywhere. I met my writing buddies through school and


Make sure that the writing course is free. Writing is supposed to be fun, not a hole in your wallet. Online courses are better because they’re done on the Internet and at your own pace. Try for some free, fun courses geared towards young writers.

Not only will these courses give you a chance to interact with other authors, some experienced, others not, but it will give you a chance to shine and better your art. And they’re free!


Buy some spiral notebooks in bulk at a wholesale store (it’s cheaper that way). In that notebook you’ll keep all your writing.

When you start to write that first sentence most likely you’ll keep on writing. In no time a story will have blossomed.

Ask someone to buy you The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer, or The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood for your birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.

The books have writing prompts and inspirational quotes to keep the juices flowing and help you through the dilemma we call “writing.”


You have academic goals, why not have writing goals? Tell yourself that you want to write at least one short story by the end of the semester. Don’t worry if it’s just a first draft. Like wine, you have to let your story age before the editing stage in order to get the best quality.

You can set your goals higher such as writing a novel, but write at least one short short--a story between two and six pages long. If you write the short short and you hate it, at least you wrote something.


You shouldn’t punish your talent. Let it roam free and just write! While others schedule time to work out (or make out), why not enjoy your own hobby?

Learn to time manage and sneak writing into your daily planner. When at lunch or sitting in the park, observe and write.

What do you see? What do you smell? How does the air taste? Ask yourself all these questions and more. Step outside of the cubicle! One answer to your plethora of questions can set your mind into full throttle, resulting in a beautiful story.


Stephen King once wrote in an article written for The Writer’s Survival Guide: “Ask yourself frequently, ‘Am I having fun?’ The answer needn’t always be yes. But if it’s always no, it’s time for a new project or a new career.”

Writing should be fun and stress-free, and most of the time it’s one or the other (and one out of two ain‘t bad). Find new and exciting ways to keep yourself enthralled in your writing.

Make character sketches of your favorite cartoon character; make word anagrams; write out of your genre.

And when you feel like giving up because school or work or lack of loving from your friend with benefits pushed you out of the writing zone, find a quote or phrase to keep yourself going like The Little Engine that Could (“I think I can, I think I can…”). Dory, from Disney/Pixar’s film Finding Nemo, inspired me to use “Just keep swimming.”

So before the sun rises, let your thoughts rise instead. Follow these six easy steps and not only will you maintain your craft while educating yourself, but you’ll maintain your sanity.

*Originally published in The Communitarian

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