One of my biggest struggles as a writer is simply finding the time to get my ideas on paper. I have plenty of notes that I take throughout the day, but if there aren’t new scenes written down it feels like I haven’t gotten much done. I feel like this is a phenomenon many writers encounter especially my peers.
As a college student, I am not only taking classes but I’m also working a few jobs while mapping out large writing projects. I always think there will be time, a break in my schedule, to get a few thousand words down, but when I get a moment to myself I’d rather rest and recharge. Which, in our culture of productivity, can feel like a failure for my writing goals.
Best-Selling author V.E. Schwab has used her social media platform to open my eyes to the life of a practicing author. Similar to me, Schwab takes on a few projects at once. She’s got a novel to write, a TV script to finalize, and a few comics in the works. She takes to Instagram to show her fans the ways in which she balances her time between writing, violin lessons, personal readings, and traveling. However, the most important parts of her messages are the need for healthy breaks.
Recently, she was asked how many words she makes herself write a day. This is a common idea in the writing world. That you must write a certain amount of words daily to make any kind of progress. Schwab responded that she has no word count. Some days she writes a few thousand words and others she only gets a paragraph down. With her other responsibilities, and taking mental health breaks, a full page of work doesn’t always make it into her day, even with writing being her full-time job.
Burnout is a very real thing. If you push yourself to fit all your tasks in one day, at least a few of those things aren’t going to get the attention they need. Sure, it is possible for some to do a little bit of everything, but for others, this kind of push comes at the risk of our mental health or general security.
Writing isn’t typically a job you can spend all of your time on immediately. It’s a career that builds, and in the meantime, some of us have to prioritize education and other work opportunities to support ourselves. I want to note that this doesn’t make anyone less of a writer. You could stop producing pages for months, but the progress you do have, however big or small it may be, still means you are a writer.
When considering how to balance writing and life, everyone has unique situations and opportunities. We are a diverse community, so we can’t all fit into the same productivity rules. If you can block out writing time once or twice a week in your busy schedule, that’s progress! I can’t always do that Sometimes I can only manage a weekly writing sprint, but I’m still getting my ideas down.
In the repeated words of V.E Schwab, writing doesn’t happen all at once, it comes one word at a time. We, our community of writers, are crafting work at our own pace. There doesn’t need to be any pressure on publishing by a certain age or completing a manuscript before graduating from any program. Personal goals are always encouraged, but it won’t spell doom if you take the time you need.
About the Author: Sydney Macias is a practicing novel writer whose interests take form in metaphysical settings. Her work explores large casts of ambiguous characters dealing with themes of grief, identity and power. She is currently working as an Assistant Editor for the speculative press Mythic Delirium.