Balancing Your Art and College

In this week’s installment of Ro&Co, Elizabeth shares how she balances her dream of becoming a writer with her major, her extracurriculars, and her life in college.

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It’s normal for college students to have a job, or even more than one, that they have to balance with all of the other chaotic aspects of college, but those jobs come with a perk: you get paid to do them. Over the last seven years I have spent to majority of my free time on a job that I don’t get paid for. At least not yet. For most people writing and other forms of art are hobbies to do on the weekends, but if you are seeking publication or to someday make money off of your hobby, then it is more of a job than anything. So, how do you balance college with your art?

Make Time

This is the best piece of advice I could give you, and the one people least want to hear. No one wants to be told that after they’ve spent the day studying and going to class that they have to sit down at their desk again and crank out a thousand words, but that’s what needs to happen if you ever want to finish your work in progress.

If you’re finding yourself too tired at the end of the day to get any work done, then the best time to do it might be between all of your other responsibilities. Have half an hour before your next class? Sit your butt in the nearest chair, get out your laptop, and start working.

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Hold Yourself Accountable

One of the best techniques I’ve found to get work done on a time crunch sounds like something kindergarten teachers do for their students. Buy yourself a planner and a pack of star stickers that come in multiple colors. In your planner write down what word count you want to achieve that day (or whatever goal you want to achieve) and if your hit it by the end of the day, then give yourself a gold stick. If you don’t hit it, give yourself a red sticker. There is a weird amount of motivation that comes with trying to get all gold stickers. I wrote 24,000 words in ten days using this method.

Have Other Hobbies

You’re an artist because it’s what you love to do, but, like any other job, you have to give yourself a break. Take time to do other things you enjoy, even if that’s just spending time with friends. I take part in several clubs on campus, including my sorority and the Model UN team. These activities are a great way to hang out with people who have similar interests and take a breather from working. Besides, you never know if you’ll learn something that’ll inspire your next work.

Social Media

If your goal is to get your work published, then the best thing you can do for yourself is make social media accounts dedicated to your work. For writers the best places to start are Twitter and Tumblr; both sites have massive writing communities, where you can meet fellow writers and industry professionals. There is even a competition on Twitter every three months called #pitmad, where you can pitch your ideas to publishers and agents for the possibility that they’ll sign you.

Another site that you have to check out is Wattpad, which can best be described as Facebook for writers. Some of the most popular authors got their start on this website, so it’s worth checking out. However, if you want to build up a large following on Wattpad (a following that will buy your books when they’re published), then you have to be in it for the long haul. I wrote my first and third novels on Wattpad, which means I gave them away to readers entirely for free so I could build up a fan base and connect with other writers. It worked well for me. After about three years on the site, I gained over one thousand followers and ranked both of my books in the top twenty science-fiction books on the site.

Have Fun

At the end of the day, you’re pursuing a career in art because you love it—if you’re doing it for money, then I suggest the Econ department—so have a little fun with it. If you’re getting to the point where you don’t want to write anymore, you may have to rethink your goals or how you’re going about achieving them. Don’t push yourself so hard that you want to quit altogether. There is a happy medium, so relax and have fun.

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