How to Balance College Work with Creative Pursuits

College is overwhelming, to put it simply. It’s all-consuming. This is how life is going to be for four years or so – nonstop essays and exams and reports and projects (and screaming). We live and breathe school, and it often threatens to push us over the edge. But, hopefully, most of us also have other defining aspects of our lives.

Creative pursuits, whether they come in the form of writing, drawing, singing, music, or anything really, can act as a safe zone from the constant grind of college life. Balancing these pursuits with work is a whole other challenge that there’s no singular universal method to, but here are a few ways I’ve been able to fit a creative mental reprieve into a college routine.

Time management usually isn’t a great skill of mine. I’m prone to procrastination and distraction, especially this late in the semester. Naturally, you’d think that if I can’t get myself to complete my required coursework, I shouldn’t spend valuable time on side projects outside of my classes. However, I disagree.

For me, at least, if I find myself in a particularly bad state of procrastination where I’m giving precious hours of my attention to YouTube or Netflix, I try to change my focus onto something creative. I write a poem or a few paragraphs of prose, edit it through a few times. At least now I’ve created something rather than mindlessly scrolling through social media. And now that the cogs are already turning from that creative jumpstart, it’s easier to switch my attention over to finishing school work.

When I finish an essay or another big assignment, I try to really put it away for a bit before turning it in. I let it simmer while I get my mind onto something else and close the document so it’s not hovering in my laptop like a persistent ghost. Here’s when I would write some more creatively, but substitute in whatever shape your creative pursuits take. I write for fun until I’ve forgotten about whatever school work I had just finished. Forgetting is the key part. Then when I’m ready, I can return to my essay or assignment with a refreshed eye and polish it off with a clearer head.

Sometimes it’s simply too much and there’s no time for anything at all, let alone personal creative projects. This is inevitable (happens at least once or twice a semester for me; more depending on my state of mind). But even when I can’t spare a moment to actually write something creative, it’s always lingering in the back of my head.

“What will I create in my spare time this summer? What media should I consult for inspiration next? What if I revisited that old project of mine?” If even in the absence of creative action, you still find yourself itching for a pen or a guitar pick or what have you, this is a great sign. You’ll come back to it even more eager to get going.

Find little ways to follow your passions in day-to-day life. Your mental health will thank you. (But also don’t despair over not having enough time to properly pursue your creative endeavors; you’ll be out of here soon enough!)


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