Finding time to write, and writing well, seems impossible for some. For others, it just becomes one of many challenges that make life worth the busyness. For today’s featured writer, it’s a talent turned hobby turned success story. School, work and writing go hand-in-hand, and busyness is just a minor side effect that comes with putting good ideas into well-crafted words.
Autumn Slaughter is mere months away from an advanced degree in counseling psychology, and hopes to pursue a PhD in counseling or clinical psychology. While earning her B.A., she wrote for her university’s student newspaper, and has articles published in Country Line Magazine and the Solphur Springs Telegram.
She has also self-published three books through CreateSpace, and is currently working on a novelette, “Run,” which follows a female runner through the Oklahoma City Marathon.
When she’s not writing, you can find Slaughter doing just about everything else—including snapping photos, studying and running copious amounts of mileage. We sat down with her to hear more about how she balances it all—and how you can, too.
How to you balance your day-to-day activities with your writing?
Very carefully. I work full-time and have internship responsibilities connected to my masters program. I carefully manage my free time. Once a month I participate in a poetry open-mic where I receive great feedback and support, which helps keep me motivated to produce more work for the next event.
Much of my writing is done at the free time I have at work. Since I work in the service industry, there are slow days that allow me to write and work on homework assignments.
How has studying human behavior influenced the subjects you address in your writing?
You can only write about what you know, so if you want to have a lot of depth in your writing, you have to know a lot. Psychology, especially counseling psychology, is a great way to know a lot. I’m constantly talking to people who are very different [from] me and provide insight into worlds I would have never explored without their help.
What is your ideal writing environment?
There’s no necessary outer environment, but there is a necessary inner environment. I cannot write if I’m apathetic. I have to be feeling something, and it needs to be an emotion I can clearly identify, if not necessarily explain.
How can high levels of stress affect someone’s writing process?
I work very well under stress, but I always prefer not to, and since I write as a hobby—a way of relaxing—I will not write if the activity is producing more stress. I already have enough of that from my course work.
What’s the most effective way to manage stress and still make time for writing?
You just have to take care of yourself. Do things you enjoy, eat [right], exercise, all the old, tried and trued clichés.
How do you find time and energy to “do” when doing gets tough?
It helps that I am a very driven person, and enjoy doing things. I [would] rather be editing photo from a shoot or planning a poetry collection than sitting on the couch watching television—and that is what really keeps me going. I just like doing.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write, but just can’t find the time to sit down and do it?
If you really want to do it, at some point you’ll sit down and do it. Writing isn’t like playing video games or reading leisure books. It’s a discipline. It’s a type of work, and that’s not for everyone.
If you feel too busy to write, making writing part of your busyness, even if it sometimes feels like work, can reap just enough reward to make it all worth it. We need a little stress to keep us going, but if you’re determined to get it done, you will always, eventually, find a way.
Image courtesy of Autumn Slaughter.