How to Earn a Degree and Write a Novel, Simultaneously

book sitting

Back when I was “just an English major,” finding time to write was a whole lot easier. Of course, back when I was “just an English major,” I was still taking lower-division literature credits, which meant a whole lot of reading and not much else.

This was also back in the day (I’m starting to feel a little old right about now) when my only career goal was to publish a novel. Not a bad goal for someone who has been writing since forever, but a 19-year-old heart is prone to want more out of life than that same heart five years prior.

To make a long story short, I added a second major to prevent my brain from suffocating from boredom, and it wasn’t until my first NaNo as a double-major that I realized: writing takes A LOT of time.

Like, a LOT of time. Even when you love doing it.

You have to get creative when you’re trying to balance school (nonfiction) and writing (sometimes nonfiction, but we’ll say fiction for this analogy). Creativity isn’t the toughest thing in the world for a writer. What makes this difficult is accepting that sometimes you have to take a subject you don’t really like, such as math, and combine it with a subject you love, like writing.

Studying for a math test, maybe you would write a whole set of totally ridiculous word problems to keep yourself entertained while memorizing formulas. But you see, I’m not studying math. I’m currently deep, deep into the fascinating yet overwhelming concepts of biochemistry. How have I managed to write, and study – at the same time?

By comparing enzyme activity to Mean Girls, obviously.

In a nutshell (or should I say cell membrane?), The Plastics are enzymes and Lindsay Lohan’s character is the substrate. The transition state is popularity, and in the end, everyone decides they just want to get through high school (life). The point is, you have to find a way to entertain yourself with the content at your fingertips.

How do you do that? In three steps. Because three is a nice, even number.

Well, actually it’s odd. I’m not good at math. English major, remember?

Step 1: Learn the material you’re studying.

As you can probably guess, this means actually opening a book (sorry, not one just for fun) and achieving some level of mastery over at least one concept off your study guide (if your professor gives you one). Read it, recite it, UNDERSTAND it. Understanding it is a prerequisite for the next step.

Step 2: Find something that helps you remember what you’ve learned.

By college, I would hope your brain is filled with enough memories and pop culture references to set this step in motion. Think of something you LOVE (Mean Girls is on my top 10 favorite movie list) and find some off-the-wall way to make it relate to the material at hand.

Step 3: Write it down in the margins of your test.

I’m serious. You’re not the only one who has to enjoy the bizarre mnemonic devices your twisted brain comes up with during a cram session. Not only will it help you remember and regurgitate the proper information needed to get you the grade you want, it might give your professor an unexpected reason to smile during his or her tenth consecutive hour of grading.

If you’re like me and actually like school, this all might actually make sense to you. If not, at least I helped you remember how long you’ve been meaning to watch Mean Girls.

[Author’s note: I got an 89% on that biochem test, by the way. And if you must know, I wrote out the activation energy-Mean Girls analogy when explaining the function of an enzyme on my test. My professor opted not to comment on my comparative choice. His loss.]

Love&hugs, Meg<3




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