Balancing the Writing Life with "Real" Life

It’s that time of year again – back to school. I have been nervous, barely sleeping, anticipating the new year and the terror of standing in front of a room full of teenagers who I don’t know and who don’t know me. I have to learn names and personalities and set boundaries, all while trying to make my class fun and interesting. Plus there is that learning piece. With all this buzzing around in my head, it is easy to forget about that other part of my life, the part that helps keep me sane. Here are some ways I keep my writing life fresh while balancing it with the rest of my life:
1. Set deadlines – there is nothing so good for helping me write as having a concrete deadline. I like to find competitions or themed calls a month or two in advance so I have a goal to work towards and some pressure to finish or polish a piece.
2. Find a writing group – having even a monthly group to report to keeps the idea of writing at the forefront of my mind. Knowing that others are counting on me to read their work and submit something new and worthwhile is a great way to keep things from sitting on the back burner too long.
3. Read for pleasure – this is one I struggle with when things get busy. It’s one of the reasons I love taking the subway to work. It is my quiet reading time and I make sure to keep it sacred. I don’t lesson plan or grade papers unless I am really desperate, preferring to use the time to disappear into another world.
4. Go to local readings – there is nothing so inspiring as hearing a newly published author read from his or her work and getting to talk with them afterwards about the writing life. Moving in literary circles keeps my literary juices flowing.
5. Set aside a time for writing – I find that if I don’t set aside specific time for writing, it doesn’t happen. I start checking email, lesson planning, surfing the web. Pretty soon it is time to cook dinner or get to that stack of lab reports I need to grade. Even if it is just once a week on a Sunday morning, it helps to have blocked out time and not allow yourself to do anything else. Sometimes I sit there and write 10 words in a whole hour, but at least my mental activity is focused on my writing project.
Do you have other ways of keeping writing alive even during busy times of the year? If so, comment below and share them with us.