Finding Time to Write in High School

By Maeve Maddox

I am still in high school and therefore (due to AP classes) have little or no time to write.  I have tried to make time to write at least half a page every day (not a continuing story, just whatever comes to mind at the time) and I cannot even find time to do THAT!  I really want to continue my writing and I want to improve, but I just can’t find the time.

Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to improve my vocabulary, grammar, writing and my flow of ideas that will not take up too much time?

NOTE: This reader is referring to Advanced Placement classes. “AP courses” are college courses made available to high school students. They are generally considered to be more rigorous than general high school courses and usually require more reading and writing.

This note from a young reader made me think of the story about the young man who was in love with a young woman. Her family moved to another town a thousand miles away. Distraught, the young man went to the local sage and told him his sad story. The sage looked at him thoughtfully and then spoke. “How is it, young man, that you love this young woman and she is a thousand miles away?”

Writing is like love. You go the distance. You find the time.

High School Students Have More Time Than Adults
One of my greatest regrets as I head into my retirement years is that I wasted so much time because of the petrifying notion that I had to wait to get serious about writing until after I’d met all my domestic responsibilities.

Women caring for husbands and pre-schoolers, and men working two jobs to keep their children in clothes and school supplies are certainly at a disadvantage if professional writing is their goal. Nevertheless if the desire is strong enough, they’ll steal hours from their sleep to find the time to put words to paper.

Unlike an adult caught up in the necessities of providing for the needs of others, a high school AP student has opportunities built into the work day.

Every situation differs, I know, but it seems to me that an AP student would find plenty of opportunity to “improve vocabulary, grammar, writing and flow of ideas” in the process of doing the AP course work.

Vocabulary
A course in any discipline, even math, can provide vocabulary growth as the student learns the specialized terms of the subject.

An AP English course is a gift for the budding writer. It provides the opportunity for close reading of serious literature. Not only will such reading add to the student’s vocabulary, it will do it in a way that cramming on vocabulary lists will never do because the words are presented in context.

AP History will not only provide new vocabulary, it will furnish the student’s mind with ideas and information that one day can be distilled into fiction or personal essay writing.

Nothing is lost to the writer. That’s where writers have it all over non-writers. Even a tedious wait in a doctor’s office provides material.

Grammar
Like vocabulary, grammar is better learned from reading than from doing isolated exercises.

A common fault that I see in the writing of many young people is the uncertain grasp of prepositions. Many young native English speakers use prepositions as if English were their second language. If they read widely, they’d absorb the idioms.

Writing and Flow of Ideas
An AP English syllabus I pulled up on the web requires eleven essays. How is this not a built-in opportunity for writing practice?

Some of the works of literature being studied for this class are The Canterbury Tales, The Inferno and All Quiet on the Western Front. Like I said, a gift.

Courses other than AP English offer plenty of opportunity for improving writing and flow of ideas.

For example, not all textbooks are well-written. Some seem designed to put the reader to sleep. Students of writing can read textbooks on any subject not just for information, but for style. They can compare the interesting parts with the soporific ones. What makes the writing slow down? Is it sentence length? Is it unnecessarily erudite vocabulary? What about transitions? What words does the writer use to get from one idea to the next? How could the writing be improved?

Make Your Courses Work for You
The young writer who set me this question is to be admired for recognizing the fact that writing must be cultivated.

My advice, try to stop seeing the AP coursework as an impediment to writing and make it work for you. The practice of writing half a page a day was a great idea. Resume it if at all possible. If all you can find is ten minutes, write a few lines. If nothing else, take the time to write the words “I am a writer” before you drop off to sleep.

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8 Responses to “Finding Time to Write in High School”

  • Aaron

    This article really reminded me of my own situation. While no longer a high school student, I am still a student, and I have always looked at my courses as ones that get in the way of writing rather then working for it, even though my courses are writing intensive.

    You brought up the example of The Canterbury Tales, which ironically I am reading for one of my courses, and have actually found it to be such a useful example as you put it to be in your article.

    I’m only a bit over a year out of high school and already I’ve been putting it to fault of my classes that I cannot write. This article made me realize that what you say is true, as a student I have much more time than I would have in the future when I am faced with more responsibilities and should be using what I have now to further my writing rather than hinder it.

  • John Sanderson

    When using acronyms or abbreviations, I was taught either to always expand the abbreviation or at least to expand it on its first occurrence on a page.

    In this article, the questioner, perhaps, can be forgiven for not so doing but the author, being a professional writer, really ought to have been more careful.

    As a non-US reader, I have no idea what the abbreviation “AP” is, although from the context I can probably rule out Associated Press,
    Access Point, Associate Professor, Accounts Payable, Asia Pacific, Action Plan, Another Place (gaming forum), Assistant Professor,…

  • Chris

    I know how it feels. I still work a full time job and am raising two kids. It’s definitely not always easy, but if you find the time, it will be worth it in the end. Great post.

  • Angela Wilson

    How I wish I had not wasted all my time in high school and college and just WROTE! Starting good habits young will pay off in life. If you make writing a priority while in high school and during the chaos of college, you will have set a habit that will not be easily broken.

    Even if it is a half page per day, right before bed, journal writing, using a blog platform to stumble through a story or your creative muse, just do SOMETHING. You will feel so much better once you get rid of all that guilt about NOT writing.

    Thanks for a terrific post! Good luck to the student!

  • Maeve

    John,
    Please note that I added an explanation to the post as soon as the omission was pointed out to me. Apologies.

  • Stephen Thorn

    I sympathize with the nameless student. I’m a middle-aged man working three jobs AND trying to keep a household running while trying to have a little time for a social life. Along with that, I’m writing my first novel (75 pages so far – YAY!) and working on poems and short stories as they come to me. No, I don’t have a magical hourglass that lets me stop time and write for six hours a day (but ooooh, don’t I wish I DID!). I write during my lunch hour, or when I can steal a little time aside from that, get about six hours of sleep per night (when nine would suit me much better), etc. It boils down to priorities — you do what is possible to make what you want happen. I give up some things in order to put that time into my writing, and that’s what Nameless Student will have to do as well. Skip 15 minutes per day spent on something else and by the end of the week you’ll have 3 hours + for your writing.

    Aside from that, I use some technology to aid me. I have a pocket tape recorder into which I can dictate ideas or stories as they come to me (I usually do this while I’m driving, rather than yammering on my cell phone and asking my friends such vital and timely questions as “What’re you doing?” or “Where you at?”) I bought an old dinosaur laptop that is modern enough to run my word processing program (cost me $50) that I can lock up at my desk at work, then haul it out at lunch time to add a few paragraphs or pages over lunch.

    Again, it’s not always easy. There are some current TV shows that I really enjoy but haven’t seen a complete episode of in weeks because I alternate my attention between watching the TV and writing on my laptop. But I don’t feel cheated — I love to write, love to tell the stories that are rumbling around in my head and fighting to get out, plan to be published again (and again and again!), so I’m enjoying what I’m doing. That’s the key — feed your passion with your time and sweat, and the passion will feed you in return.

  • Stephen Thorn

    (Okay, so my math was a little off — I’m a writer, not a mathematician.)

  • shane

    i’m writing an article but still sometimes i feel uncontented of what i’m writing…what shall i do?

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