5 Tips from A Writer’s Time


It’s August and we’re back at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, which has us thinking about what we can accomplish as writers this month and this year, if we use our time well. Here are five snippets from A Writer’s Time by Kenneth Atchity.

Quick aside: In just the sort of serendipity the Lofty duo likes, Atchity is the president of Atchity Entertainment International, whose clients include Australian millionaire-turned astronaut Nik Halik. Halik was a backup tourist-astronaut on a Soyuz mission but didn’t fly. Instead, Robert Garriott paid $30 million to fly to the International Space Station in October 2008. Garriott was the first American to travel to space whose parent had also flown in space. Owen K. Garriott, Robert’s father, had been a Skylab and a Shuttle astronaut. Sergey Volkov, son of cosmonaut Aleksandr Volkov, was the first offspring of a spacefarer to go to space. The younger Volkov returned from his first of three stints on ISS with the younger Garriott in 2008. The senior Volkov, along with Sergei Krikalev, left Earth for space station Mir in 1991 as Soviet citizens and returned as Russian citizens.

But this post is about writing time, and here a five things Atchity says:

No time is more important than the time used to examine and schedule your time.

Finding time to do what only you can do–and what you love to do most–distinguishes happy productive people from the unproductive and unhappy. […] Aim to do what only you can do, and stop doing what you–as well as others–can do. Simply being able to do a thing is not a good reason for doing it if you want to be in control of your own time.

Make an inventory of your time over the space of a week. Figure out where the hours go by making a list of activities in pencil and estimating the number of hours spent after each activity. […] Once the list is as accurate as you can make it (leaving out non routine events such as vacations or sicknesses), add two columns to the left of each item. In the first column, estimate how much you like this particular activity (on a scale of one to five). […] In the second column, rate how much potential each activity has for enhancing your ability to “buy time.” […] All items that rate a combined score of five or more are items you’ll want to retain in your life [. …]

Every time you finish a productive compartment of time, you construct your linkage to the next one. Drawing on the energy that urges you to continue, you say instead: “Okay, I’ve got to stop in ten minutes. Instead of writing for the next ten minutes, I’m going to use that time to decide how I’m going to begin tomorrow.” You’ve made the linkage. […] The linkage becomes your Muse. No cold starts, in other words.

Why is it easy to put off the most important things in favor of doing dishes? Because we know how much anxiety we must confront to do the important things, so of course we want to put them off. When it comes down to daily activities, do the writing first and let the dishes pile up. Ask yourself, “Would it be the end of the world if I didn’t sweep the patio?” If the answer is “No,” do the writing instead.

So that’s why our patio isn’t swept and why our counter is sometimes full of dishes. Writing is important to us. We do the important things, to echo President Kennedy’s call to go to the Moon, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.” If those words got us to the Moon within a decade, why not use them to motivate us to write the next book?


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