As a teacher, I’ve come to learn the meaning of the phrase “burnt out.” Wake up at six, be in the classroom by seven – the bell rings at 7:25. I don’t slow down until 3, and sometimes I even work longer. Reading papers, making tests, grading essays. An English teacher’s work never stops. The thing is – this wasn’t the career I planned for. I wanted to be a writer. But as my days teaching progressed into weeks and months, I realized that the free-time fairy wasn’t planning a visit anytime soon. Even on winter vacation, I had an unending list of things to do. How?
I needed to reassess my priorities. In other words:
Don’t find time, make it.
I tried a few things that didn’t work.
- I woke up at 4:00 AM, as a professor of mine recommended. Then I promptly fell back to sleep.
- I wrote during my lunch break at work. While this wasn’t the Holy Grail, I did start making progress.
- I drank COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF CAFFEINE! REDBULL!
- What really helped was focus after school. I cooked all of my meals, did my chores, and ran my errands on Sunday. This left time for me to go full-on hermit-mode every day after school until I finished my first draft.
- Be prepared to say, “No, I’m writing.”
- If you’re like me, you want to go to the movies, out to dinner, spelunking – but you have to make writing your priority if you want to finish. Your real friends will understand.
- Don’t make writing a secret.
- For big parts of my life, writing was the thing I did behind closed doors. When I decided to tell my students I was writing a novel, I was in for a big surprise: They were excited! They encouraged me, asked me if I was finished, told me they wanted to read it when I was done. There is nothing like writing a YA novel while the teenagers around you cheer you on.
- Disconnect. Have some willpower.
- If you know that you’re going to log into facebook every 5 minutes, log out. Be honest with yourself. If that means unplugging the wifi and pulling out a paper dictionary, so be it.
- Create a habitat and ritual.
- Find a place to get comfortable – mine is at the bar in my kitchen. There is plenty of natural light and no distraction.
- Figure out the ingredients you need – I need caffeine, a snack, my Macbook Air, Microsoft Word, a reverse dictionary, silence, and several hours to get into the zone.
- Learn to break that ritual to gain new perspective.
- Whenever I hit a wall, I learned to find a new place to sit or even stand at my kitchen counter. Change part of that ritual and remind yourself that aspiring writers wait for the muse, but successful writers put in the hard work.