Life as a Student Author | Dakota Caldwell

Authors. Of all the careers in the world (with maybe the exception of the pope and deep space explorers), this particular profession elicits more mystery, reverence, and respect than any other. I mean, when someone asks you what you’re doing, tell them that you’re writing a book. Watch their reactions and tell me if I’m wrong.

My point here is that most people assume that being an author is a glamorous task. You sit at your desk, watching your thoughts transform into entire worlds, flow into characters, and rip the heart of readers to shreds. What most people don’t think about is the hundreds of hours it takes to put a book together. Entire books have been written on this, getting past the endless writer’s block, treating the concussions you gave yourself when you hit your head against the wall too hard, and treating the dehydration you incurred when you forgot to get up from your computer for four days…

Being an author in college is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. As I got ready to release my first novel last semester, I frequently found myself facing difficult choices: school or writing?

In college, nothing is required of you. Sure, a few classes take attendance, but getting the grade is all on you. When something more pressing comes up, why bother with something that isn’t required?

This is ultimately the crux of the problem. What I’ve come up with is a system, however flawed, to figure out what the best course of action will be.

First, when I feel the urge to write rather than go to class, I look at the time. I write best during certain hours of the day, from about 7:00 to 12:00 AM. If a class doesn’t fall during those hours, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t get any writing done anyway. Skipping is out of the question.

If a class does fall during that sweet zone, I have to look at the class. Skipping something like Materials or Thermodynamics, which I can barely understand even when I try, is out of the question. If I don’t go to that, I’ll be lost for weeks.

However, sometimes, I’m on a writing kick when Calculus comes around. You know, if the words are flowing, and it’s a class I understand (I know, I’m weird…), I honestly don’t see a real problem with skipping. After all, writing is what I want to do with my life anyway, so I’m still working towards a life goal!

I think this is the ultimate choice that every author has to make. What is important to me? Is it more important that I get a few more minutes in class, or that I get this chapter finished? Is it more important to go to the gym, or to work through beta edits? Should I go out to eat with my friends, or write an extra scene to make the book that much better?

I’m not saying that you should always choose writing. That would be irresponsible to ignore all other aspects of your life, but you have to make those hard choices. I tried to run the calculations once, and as near as I can tell, I spent over three thousand hours working on writing before my first book released. That wouldn’t have happened if I had taken every opportunity to play Minecraft with my dorm floor, went to every class, or made it to every athletic event.

I guess to close, I just want to encourage you. If you happen to be an aspiring author but just can’t find the time, look at your schedule. If you truly want to make this happen, you’ll find the time. If you know an author, hey, cut them some slack. They’re pouring their soul out for the world to read. They deserve to be able to lock themselves away for an afternoon without too much criticism.

Well, I have a test coming up, so I should probably go study. Thanks for having me on the blog! It was great getting to talk with all you guys!

Born and raised on a Kansas farm, Dakota Caldwell has long had a passion for writing. Now in college, he has already published one novel (Project Nomad) and has a dozen more in the pipeline. He is also engaged to the best marketing adviser and most patient beta reader on the planet.


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1 Comment

  • Claire B. Posted February 28, 2017 9:44 pm

    Great post! Being a student author is hard! My advice is basically don’t try and publish a book while in grad school. lol! Definitely not something I ever want to do again. I found it hard to find time to write during school, between studying and class times and extra-curricular activities. I should have tried harder at scheduling. 🙂
    Best of luck with school and writing!

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