How I Did It: Juggling Law School And Writing At The Same Time

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Law school is hard. Writing is even harder. Put the both of them together? It’s a time management disaster just waiting to happen.

For three years, casual writing was what I did to release all the pent up stress, frustration and wall-punching anger I felt whilst studying law. It was my way of retreating from the real world, to write and imagine one where I didn’t have to memorise a hundred complex and badly written statutes before lunchtime.

I digress.

I’ve had a love for writing since I was twelve. However, it was only when I started university — at the age of eighteen — did I transform my occasional hobby into a serious passion. A passion which has seen me publish two novellas, an aspirational but failed debut novel as well as a series of guest blog posts scattered across the web.

As I enter my fourth year of writing semi-seriously, I look back on my hectic law school years and wonder how I ever found the time to put pen to paper (or, in my case, finger to keyboard).

I believe that this piece will be useful for those trying to find the time to sit down and do some serious writing but life circumstances, whether it be study, work or otherwise, always finds a way to demotivate you from even trying.

From the words of a law graduate and a semi-serious writer, my advice would be:

Don’t stress about finding the time. Plan ahead of time instead.

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When I first started writing seriously, I panicked. A lack of time drew me to the conclusion that I just had to adopt a reactionary stance, to take whatever dribbles of free time law school afforded me in my daily schedule.

It took me a couple of weeks before I realised that the more intelligent position to take would be to plan it out in advance. If you’re serious about writing, taking the time to plan when to start and stop writing is a good first step. It sounds basic, but, surprisingly, many people have not grasped the concept of planning ahead of time just yet — preferring instead to take a reactionary stance, namely to take any free time you find yourself in to do your writing.

However, once you get into it, you’ll realise what a lifesaver planning writing time in advance is. It allows you to look forward, to block out free time and plan what you want to write in advance, instead of panicking, flustered at your lack of clarity of thought that comes with suddenly being confronted with free time to write.

That’s what I did: taking an hour on a Sunday evening to properly sit down and look at my schedule for the coming week to see if I had any free time to start writing. Upon inspection, I realised that early mornings (between 7am — 9am) are just begging to be utilised fully for writing. That’s where I scheduled in my writing time and, even after graduating from law school, it’s still something I do every day before heading into work.

Not only do you get to squeeze out a couple of pages for a solid two hours, but you also get into the habit of waking up early, training your brain to operate through the early morning fog, which has clear benefits for the rest of your day at work.

Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you’ll write the next big thing.

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You won’t be the next big thing. Period.

You’re not going to be the next George R.R. Martin, the next J.K. Rowling. At least, that’s what I tell myself everyday when I sit down to type out the meagre sentences bouncing around my empty head.

Many writers fall under the illusion that they are writing the next big thing, the hit novel that will result in lucrative TV deals, movie rights, sponsorship and the like. Their ‘started from the bottom, now we here’ moment, if you will.

However, the chances of that happening is non-existent, incredibly slim at best. Thousands of people write and publish their novels every year, only to be knocked back by publishers, by life circumstances getting in the way or just plain giving up in the middle of the drafting process. By putting yourself under that sort of pressure, you only invite stress into the writing process, which is meant to be a stress-free exercise.

This additional stress stems good ideas from developing, dragging with it the worries that it would “never be good enough” for everyone or that your ideas would be mocked by the wider world.

Don’t do that to yourself.

Stop thinking about writing to make it big. That’s not the purpose of writing in the first place, and it doesn’t help produce quality writing either. This was the mental space I found myself in when I started writing, idly dreaming that my next book would take me into Hollywood instead of remembering why I loved writing, why I wanted to write in the first place, to release stress, putting finger to keyboard to bring the stories trapped in my head to life.

Many aspiring authors stop for the very same reason I almost did. Dreaming about my manuscript being used as the next big HBO series, I almost gave up consistently writing because I thought my writing would never match that standard.

Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you must write the next big hit. Write what you love, write what you will. Life will find a way to reward you for your dedication.

Sleep, eat, write, repeat.

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As the saying goes, motivation is what gets you started, but habit is what keeps you going.

Once you’ve planned your time out ahead, as well as calming yourself down enough to sit down and write regularly, the key is to then write regularly. Sounds easy but tougher in practice. I lost track of how many times I came up with excuses not to sit down at my usual early morning hours to write, whether it was law school assignments (which, honestly, I could’ve pushed to later in the day to complete), social events, or just plain laziness/want-to-sleep instincts.

Don’t let any of that get in the way between you and your manuscript. When it comes to writing regularly, you are your own worse enemy. Discipline yourself. Get up early (or remember to schedule in a time in the evening or late at night, if you prefer), grab a coffee or a snack, sit down and start writing. Once I started to religiously focus on writing, and I mean like a writing zealot with something to prove to the writing gods, you would be surprised at just how much you can write in a short amount of time.

These three tips are your best friend. Develop all of them at the same time, and you’ll be on your way to a stress-free and productive writing experience.

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Writer, lawyer, insomniac. Strictly in that order. www.ajtrevors.com

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Andy James Trevors

Andy James Trevors

Writer, lawyer, insomniac. Strictly in that order. www.ajtrevors.com

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