There are a thousand and one things that you could be spending your time on, and probably another thousand things you should be spending your time on. . . and a couple hundred other things you want to be spending your time on.
In other words, you’re bust.
Writers like you, especially when you’re trying to graduate high school or get through college, have way too many things to do, and much much much too little time to do those things. It is insanely hard to find the time to write consistently.
This is where planners and schedules and time management programs and speedier typing classes enter into your life, giving you yet another thing to complete.
Your days become full of mental checkmarks, rushed homework—maybe even forgotten homework—and after-midnight hours of writing where you can barely keep your eyes open.
And this is where I tell you to get your priorities straight, give you a nifty hack to make more out of your limited time, or show you the newest, blingiest digital planner that will make your entire day, week, and year, color-coded and easily accessible from your handheld device!
But. . . is that really what you need?
Is a new way of organizing your priorities to cram as much as possible into your time actually going to benefit you—as in your life? Do you really want to be a crammer for the rest of your life?
Or. . . do you want to live?
No Planner Is Going To Help You Live. . . Because Living Is NOT The Same Things As Existing
The difference between living and existing is small and seemingly inconsequential, but there is a difference, and that difference is the line between living a life, and living the best life you possibly can.
Existing is simply a confirmation of having breath in your lungs and a beating heart. Living is when you add values of purpose, happiness and sorrow, and joy and relationships to your existence.
In the end, everyone exists. . . but not everyone is living.
No planner in all the world is going to help you live because living does not play by a schedule. Living doesn’t stop and ask directions—it just goes. Living is spontaneous joy, adventure, and risk. It’s not easy, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t play by the rules.
But it is worth it, because if we have only one life to live, only one day like today, why not step out on a ledge? Why not look up that long, winding road and take a step forward? Don’t ask yourself why—ask yourself why not?
We were not created to live safely. We were not created to stay in a bubble with our computers and notebooks and write adventures, write climaxes, write love, and never live that ourselves.
We were created to live for a King who defied everything his people lived by. He broke every standard, every expectation, and in just thirty-three years He changed the entire world for all eternity.
He did not live safely—He lived.
And He called us—He created us—to live like Him.
Your Life Is Far More Important Than The Lives Of Your Fictional Characters
Writers, especially writers that are just starting out, can very easily get caught up in the world of aesthetics, character collages, character interviews, world building down to the last grain of sand, and diving into their characters’ heads.
This all takes time and has to be added to the time actually writing. And very easily, we can feel ourselves getting lost in a fictional world, and not really being in the real world. Sometimes we can find ourselves diving so deep into a character’s head. . . that we can’t seem to find our way back out again and it becomes very hard to be present for the people—the real people—around us.
We jokingly express this by saying things like “oh! I am just so in love with my characters!” or “I have a dozen best friends. . . and none of them are real!” We find ourselves relating more to our fictional characters than to the real people God has placed around us.
I’m not saying that getting into your characters’ heads is a bad thing, or jokingly talking about how you’re falling in love with the antagonist is sinful, but you have to remember they’re not real.
And the people around you are.
Every person that steps into your life was put there for a reason. Every father, mother, and friend—they are all in your life for a reason. And you’re in theirs for a reason.
We were created to love.
We were crafted to live a life overflowing with joy—but we have to be present.
There are always going to be more people to help, more people that need to hear your story, and more people that you can reach. You’re never going to reach, or save, or change everyone.
Which is why God only placed you in one city, one town, one house, one family. Those are the people that need you most. Those are the people that need your story most.
And if you’re caught living more in your novels than in the home around you—loving your characters more than the real people around you—you need to remember that God called us to love Him and His children. We can do that wonderfully through writing, but that writing cannot steal us away from loving His children.
Your Identity is NOT In Your Writing
As you start to pull yourself away from always, constantly being attached to your writing and start to be present in the lives of the people around you, a lot of writers pull up short.
“Wait—but if I spend more time “living,” I won’t have enough time to write, and I won’t be able to read all those cool blogs. . . and my writing is going to deteriorate!!”
“But—but what about writing?? I went to my brother’s ball game, and then didn’t have time to finish that chapter. And I didn’t complete my goal for this week—what are all of my friends going to think of me? They’ll think I’m slacking off.”
And this—this is where you need to take a minute and ask yourself which is more important: finishing that last chapter, completing your word count goal and showing your writing friends just how put together and professional you are? Or putting down your computer, looking your little cousin in the eye, and saying “yes” to having a tea party?
Because, at the end of the day, what would you rather tell your Father that you did?
At the end of the day, your writing does not define you.
The amount of words on your screen does not define you.
The face you show your fellow writers does not define you.
In fact, nothing at all writing related defines you.
Not your words or your world or your characters or the amount of emotion you invest in your story—none of that defines you.
Because your identity is in Christ.
There is one person, and one person only that should define you, and that person is God. He is the One who created you, the One who has your entire life planned out, and the One who you will be spending eternity with.
So, why again do you care about what the kids in your Middle School think about you? Did they speak the universe into existence? Did they sacrifice their life for you? Did they rise from the dead?
No? Then please, don’t let them define you. Let your Father in Heaven, who loved you more than the life of His Son, define you. Why would you choose to put your identity in a fickle, lying, desperate, hopeless people, when it isn’t anyway? No matter how much you choose to be defined by this world, you never will be. All you have to do is realize that.
And at the end of the day, God doesn’t care how many words you’ve written. He cares about that one little brother who you chose to play cards with. He cares about that one time you put away your book and took a walk with your sister.
And even if you do none of that, He still loves you, and He still defines you, and He is still far more important than anything you could ever write.
To Write Well, You Must Live Excellently
Now, you might be subconsciously (or not so subconsciously) wondering how in all the world this relates to making you a better writer. Or how in all the world an article telling you to not spend as much time writing can somehow be a part of a blog that’s supposed to be helping young writers strengthen their craft.
And here’s why: you’re writing about people, correct? You want to portray life realistically, portray emotions vividly, and show the pain and hope of this world with shocking color, right?
So go surround yourself with reality.
Go immerse yourself in the people you want to imitate, go fill your life with people, and your writing will come to life.
Because how are you supposed to write about something you’ve never experienced yourself? How are you supposed to realistically portray people, when you’ve never experienced people’s pains and joys and loves?
Now, I’m not saying that to write someone almost drowning you have to go and experience almost drowning yourself—no. Please don’t do that.
But you do have to know what real fear, and real trauma looks like. And the only way you can find that out is by living in reality.
Every time you put down your computer to spend time with a real life, actually living person, that is writing research. Every time you choose to go four wheeling with your older brother, or tramping through the woods with your crazy friend who’s going to be some sort of safari expert someday—that is writing research!
Every single time you live, you are making an impact on the people around you, and on your writing.
Your Life Directly Influences Your Writing
“A writer is only as interesting as their life,” said Tim Denning. And it’s true. What you do with your life will have a massive influence on what, and how, you write.
Take Tolkien, for example. He fought in WWII, and his books, classics that have spanned the stretch of time and have been turned into movies, bear traces of his experiences in that war. The wastelands of Mordor bear a striking resemblance to the devastation of the trenches that Tolkien spent months living in, and the fight scenes in Lord of The Rings strikingly resemble actual warfare.
If Tolkien hadn’t fought in WWII, his writing would look nothing like what it does today, because being in that war impacted him on an emotional level as well.
The death of J K Rowling’s mother impacted her to tie dark themes involving death and destiny, both on an emotional and physical level, into Harry Potter. Harry Potter is what it is today because of the hard times and emotional struggles that Rowling went through.
All this to say—don’t go fight in a war and almost die and label it as writing research, but remember that every single part of your life will impact your writing. And if your life is full of sitting down and writing about other people’s adventures, but never living your own, those adventures won’t be real.
As Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.”
As writers, we have to stand up and live, seize those adventures, and embrace every opportunity, every chance, every adventure. Your writing will be infused with laughter and love and life.
I agree with Ryan Holiday when he said, “Great art is fueled by great experience.”
Going Out and Living Translates Into Original, Brash, Honest Writing
And going out and living will not only impact the way you write, or how you write—it will impact you.
As in you as a person, you as an image bearer of the King of the Universe, and you as a body that needs taken care of.
Writers are usually found sitting at desks, looking at a screen with tiny black words, and using up a whole ton of mental energy just to figure out how to get one character across the room without saying “she walked across the room” again. My brothers firmly believe that I am on my computer 24/7, no matter how much evidence I give them to go against that.
Add writing time to time doing school, and you end up sitting down and looking at a screen a lot.
Please, right now, after reading this article, just drop everything and go outside.
Statistics have shown that going outside boosts mental health. Improves your mood, increases happiness, improves sleep, strengthens memory, thinking and attention, and HEIGHTENS CREATIVITY.
Now is that a win win or what?!?
I mean, writers are constantly trying to boost mental energy—and by stopping writing and just going outside and living you can significantly increase it. Dropping everything to step away from your writing device has been scientifically shown to enhance your writing!
Writing is merely an imitation of life, so stop trying to research what the veins of a maple leaf look life—go and climb a maple tree. You will never know how to imitate something unless you carefully and closely analyze it. You will never know how to mimic real life unless you go and experience it yourself.
In Summary, Your Writing Will Only Ever Be As Alive As You Are
In this life we have been given very little time, and very many things to do. Even right now, I’m sure there are a hundred and one other things you might possibly be doing.
But when life gets busy, we can very easily be tempted to pull out that planner and work our day like a jigsaw puzzle to be able to fit every possible task into our limited amount of time. Or dream about that bucket list, like the one we’ve created as a freebie for you. But then just tuck it away and push down all those dreams.
But that is not how life was created to function. Life doesn’t give us a heads up when we’ll need to get a new planner.
Life was created for ups and downs and adventures that leave us laughing till our sides hurt.
Living was designed to be unexpected, unreliable, and unquestionably dangerous.
It’s up to us if we’ll take that step to embrace the danger and let life take us along in its fly-by-the-seat-of-its-pants rollercoaster.
It’s up to you if you will choose to let life take you, or keep fighting the current and miss the beauty God has prepared for us.
Don’t let writing stall your life.
So right now, tuck that planner on the shelf, close your computer, and say yes to the people around you.
Your writing will thank you.