I can’t say I really started thinking about writing seriously until I was starting Sixth Form and sixteen years old. I’d completely NaNoWriMo the November before, but I’d used it more as a way to stave of my distraction in class than as a tool for crafting a manuscript. Yet, a manuscript I had. I’d written ‘novels’ before (and failed to get published) but I’d never had such a wordcount so high (the first result of 60,000, which later turned into the novel’s 80,000, was a total beyond my imagination at that point) or a plot so complex (that’s what one gets for a fascination with time-travel…).
Indeed, I didn’t get my first proper Critique Partner until the site Teens Can Write, Too! held a CP match-up service – and, as with every writer at my stage of their career, I was suddenly aware of the fact that my writing needed work. A lot.
I guess that’s the moment I thought “yeah, I’m serious enough about this writing thing to take critique and edit what I didn’t want to before”. But, by that point, my academic workload and my creative workload needed a bit of juggling if I was to pass my first year of Sixth Form to start applying to university.
Yet, somehow that year, I still got a short story published in a charity ebook. I couldn’t keep my mind from straying towards plots and my own internal progression.
As is probably obvious from the title of this post, I did pass that first year, and I did get into university. Whilst I should have known, from the previous abrupt absences of online writer friends in the years above me, that university takes up more time than one realises (even with less contact hours), I didn’t anticipate how much I’d be battling the urge to write and the duty to my studies.
In school, one has ‘independent study’, but ultimately, learning is a case of noting down everything a teacher says and being able to accurately memorise it for an exam; in uni, all study is ‘independent’. Technically, the lectures I go to are optional and only my tutorials are compulsory – for which I have essays to write. However, this means that some of what I have to learn for my exams next month is research from journals I have to find myself.
The biggest difference, I’d say, is how time saps away. I had homework at school, but somehow, every evening I could complete it with time to edit a bit more of my novel or to scribble out a few lines of new works-in-progress. Nowadays, I write as if I myself live in a temporal vortex!
The truth is that the way I write now is almost counter-logical. I may wake later and have two-hour clubs after dinner, but I give my evenings almost solely to writing now, unless I have an assignment due in (even then, I would hope to have made progression on it during the day). In general, as we mature from the schedule of being ‘teens’ to being ‘young adults’ (or should that be ‘New Adults’?), we alter our circadian rhythm, our innate bodyclock, to a pattern that should allow us to make the most of the day.
I have always written better in the evening, but before I moved into halls, I had limited time (yes, until I was eighteen, I had a designated bedtime…except, of course, we didn’t call it that!), but now I’m surrounded by people who stay up until the wee hours of the morning. In true human nature style, I adapt. And my writing adapts with me.
Yet – and this may be because I’ve concentrated on editing for far too long – my writing progress is definitely less than when I was writing whilst at school.
Who can say from where this change comes? Perhaps it’s something to do with the freedom of my own schedule and the fact I no longer have to get up at stupid times in the morning to attend classes. I have one theory that I’m getting lazy! Perhaps, though, it’s because I have more on my mind: not only do my characters call to me in the middle of lecturers, but ideas of theoretical research call to me when I’m surrounded 24/7 by people who are also studying and discussing their subjects.
In my very last year of school education, I took three subjects and, though I attempted readingaround the subject, I took them superficially. For instance, I loved my Latin classes, but in the end, I knew that translating into Latin wore me down so much I strayed away from doing more than necessary. On the other hand, the two subjects I’m taking for my degree are dear to me. Whilst I may not enjoy the precision of crafting a lab report, I revel in knowing how the perceptual system works or being able to say “left inferior temporal gyrus” and knowing (give or take an inch) to where in the brain I’m referring.
As such, it’s not time that’s running out for me in terms of how my writing schedule and pressures have changed in my first year of uni, but, rather, the mental capacity that changes with the additions of uni. The working memory system can hold a maximum of 7 stimuli information pieces at once – this means that no matter how well one can juggle one’s activities, one can never truly juggle one’s thoughts.
So, Teen Tuesday readers, life changes are inevitable. I’m not going to be cliché and say that with birdsong in the background. Whilst we can’t deny that the writing progress is going to change after we move to a new ‘level’ of life – and nor can we change it – we can automatically adapt. And it’s worth spending some time thinking about that.
Alexandrina Brant is an eighteen-year-old Englishwoman about to start the final term of her first year at Reading University, studying a BA in Psychology and Philosophy. Aseclectic as her reading/writing tastes are, she gravitates towards witty mysteries and clever romances, and, whilst always twirling her parasol about Victorian manners (a la Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes), she’s recently developed an interest-that-won’t-go-away in all things Steampunk. She’s currently querying an NA Fantasy Romance about love, loss and temporal paradoxes.
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