Dealing with School/Work Related Interruptions

School and work are both important, but focusing on one or the other to the exclusion of all else can be dangerous. We’re often told to put these things above all else, which can lead to self-neglect and even self-hatred. Capitalism tells us to focus on what makes us money and ignore that which nourishes the soul. Since these beliefs have been drilled into us since we were kids, they’re difficult to ignore.

Unfortunately work and/or school will probably always be factors in your life. The key is to make sure that they don’t interrupt your writing time more than absolutely necessary. So how do you keep school/work out of your writing time?

1. Don’t take on extra responsibilities. If you don’t have to stay at work late, don’t. If you don’t have to join that after school club, don’t. If it’s not going to help you advance in life, say no. Remember that the writing won’t happen if you’re always exhausted when you get home. Remember that in ten years you’ll be more upset about not having finished that novel than you will be about missing extra hours at work.

Sometimes you’ll want to take extra commitments, and that’s fine too—as long as you still carve out daily writing time, and refuse to take on extra assignments that you’re not passionate about. Think about how you’ll feel in ten years. Will you be sad that you missed that extra workshop? Will you be sad that you didn’t help create the yearbook? Or will you be sad that your novel is still only half finished?

2. Work smarter. Find ways to complete your tasks faster without sacrificing performance. There are always short cuts. Look for the ones that won’t damage your grades or your career and take them. Finish as much as possible while you’re at the office or in the classroom so you can focus on writing when you get home. Often you won’t be able to control how many hours you spend at work or in class, but by working hard during that time you can minimize the amount of work you take home.

Stay focused at work or in class and you’ll get everything done in record time—and you’ll be able to write guilt-free when you get home.

3. Say no to social engagements more often than you say yes. Why is this under the school/work category? Well, odds are that you have some friends at school or in the office. And that those people invite you to dinner or to the bar or to different events. Say no twice for every time you say yes. Say no if you know it will cut into your writing time. Be willing to leave early to write—nobody will look down on you for leaving early, and if they do, they’re not good friends anyway.

Saying no is hard. I struggle all the time with saying no to social commitments, but I’ve gotten better at it over the last couple of years and I’m getting better at it all the time. It’s uncomfortable at first, but then when you see how much progress you’ve made in that time you’d otherwise be spending at the bar, you’ll be happy you made the decision to say no.

On the other hand, maintaining friendships is important, so say yes once in a while. Real friends don’t mind if you’re busy, but they want to be valued too.


You’re probably going to be working or in school for a long time. Everyone has to accept that one of these things will take up five, eight or even twelve hours of their day, five days a week, for a large chunk of their lifetime. What we can do is make sure that we don’t let work and school eat our life to the exclusion of what really matters to us—writing, working towards our dreams and nourishing our souls.

How much does work/school detract from your writing life?

Don’t forget to take a look at the other posts in this series:

Disturbances in Your Writing
Eliminating Guilt
Dealing with Family Interruptions
Dealing with Technological Interruptions

7 thoughts on “Dealing with School/Work Related Interruptions

  • Maria

    “What we can do is make sure that we don’t let work and school eat our life to the exclusion of what really matters to us—writing, working towards our dreams and nourishing our souls.”

    Well said and not just for writers. If more people took those words to heart, I believe there would be a lot more happy people in the world.

    • Hi Maria,

      You’re certainly right. Everyone can think of more enjoyable things to do than stay late at the office. We all have some sort of hobby. The difference is for those of us who are most serious about writing, we’re trying to propel that into something more than a hobby, so we *have* to make that time.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • Brianna Soloski

    I work multiple jobs so I wouldn’t really call work a distraction, since right now I have no choice. However, my jobs do get in the way of each other. For example, I might work at my day job, but I’m also fielding phone calls or emails from my other freelance gig.

    • Brianna,

      When it comes to work we often have no choice.The world runs on money and we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do, especially when building a business. What’s important is to weigh each new assignment when you get it. What will you have to put into it? What will you get out of it? How will it bring you closer to the life you want? What do you have to sacrifice and is it worth it?

      Don’t take new jobs unless they both pay well and help advance your career. Be selective, and make a plan to phase out one of your jobs. Be aware that you can’t work at this pace forever, and prepare to cut back. You don’t want to be dealing with the constant exhaustion from too many jobs for a long time.

      Thanks for stopping by,

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