Incense and harp music was not what I expected of my academic advisor’s office. However, it did help to ease my anxiety about my upcoming fall semester at Monmouth University.
From behind her desk, my advisor asked, “What does your day-to-day look like?”
I stammered, not wanting to say it out loud: “I work six jobs.”
To pay for college, I’ve taken several odd jobs while being a full-time student. I work shifts at a local bookstore, watch people’s pets, clean offices, and intern with book inc and Project Write Now’s Community Outreach programs. And although it’s not paying my tuition, in my free time, I’m revising my four-part fantasy/thriller book series in the Book Revision Lab.
“How do you manage to do all of it?” my advisor asked.
I don’t is what I wanted to say. My job responsibilities combined with my school work leave me feeling overwhelmed and frazzled. And I often forgo sleep in order to squeeze in my writing and revising. I’m exhausted.
Instead, I said, “I take it day by day, really.”
As we arranged my class schedule, I imagined my life in the fall. What if I had one day off a week to write? Could I stick to it? Or would I fill my free day with extra work shifts or school work?
Then, it hit me. People say if you want to be an author, you’ll make the time necessary. I had always thought they meant sacrificing your essentials such as sleep or exercise, but it’s much simpler.
Making time for writing means saying no. And I’m not just talking about saying no to friends who want to go out for drinks, I’m talking about saying no to yourself. Yes, if I take an extra shift or class, I can earn more money or graduate sooner, but that means my writing will never get done I need to say no in order to give myself the time and space to write.
At that moment, I realized that writing requires you to set an intention and stick to it. It’s no secret writing requires self-discipline, but I’d argue it requires self-compassion, too. In my case, stop overloading my schedule with school and work. If I could keep the intention that my writing is a priority, I could get my novel done.
As my advisor selected my courses with plucking harps in the background, I took a deep inhale of incense and asked, “If possible, could we arrange my schedule so that I have no classes on Fridays? I need a day to work on my book.”
She smiled. “Of course. We’ll make that happen.”