On Being Both a Student and a Writer

Lately I've been getting a lot of e-mails from followers of the blog or Twitter, asking me how I balance being an author and a student. While it's so cool that someone is actually seeking me out for advice - some days I feel like I should be the last person to hand out any sort of advice - I always sigh a little when I get this question. Because, honestly, I have no great answer. No magical or practical solution to the craziness that is trying to balance homework and learning and writing. 

Most people I know actually wait until they're done with school to pursue their writerly dreams. Seriously. Getting a degree - or a diploma - is stressful enough without trying to launch a career on top of it. But I know Veronica Roth was one of the few who did it. In fact, in her bio it says, "While a student, she often chose to work on the story that would become Divergent instead of doing her homework."

And I do the same thing.

It gets me in trouble a lot. With grades, with tests, with professors. In the past - and probably will in the future - I've deliberately and unintentionally made the choice to open that Word document instead of opening my text book or finishing an essay. As a result, I'm not being the best I could be as a student. I know that sounds horrible, and I hope I'm not sending out a negative message here. School is so, so important, which is why I'm doing it! It would be simple enough to drop out and focus solely on my writing, but I don't. I keep struggling and fighting and choosing between the two things. 

So what am I telling you? It's one or the other? You can't do both? No. Absolutely not. There could be people out there who have no idea what I'm talking about, and find no difficulty in balancing these worlds. I don't mean to sound discouraging or dismal. It's just, if you're going to be one of those ambitious individuals who's going to attempt all of it, it isn't going to be easy. Well, duh, I can hear you saying. Nothing is ever easy, except maybe polishing off that block of cheese in the fridge. But you have to want it enough, and be willing to sacrifice more sleep and maybe that better grade.

Exhibit A: I have a ton of reading due by Tuesday, and here I am, typing up this blog post. And I know that once I'm done with this, I'll be working on a secret manuscript for the rest of the day. 

In my experience, this is what it is to be both a writer and a student.