A Writer’s Time by Kenneth Atchity

I liked the idea of this book. It seemed like the perfect combination of my two interests: writing and time management. However, A WRITER’S TIME doesn’t really help with either. Atchity’s writing advice is overly complicated, requiring 1000 completed index cards, three desks, and several ten-day vacations. His time management advice is full of “woo,” as if writing is a mysterious process that has to be delicately handled.

Atchity divides his mind into “continents” and “islands,” his metaphor for rational and imaginative thought. He insists it’s the tension between these two states of mind that creates fiction, and he cultivates that tension by refusing to write. Yes, you read that correctly–Atchity thinks that not writing makes him a better writer. He relies heavily on vacations and unplanned days off. He puts great stock in letting ideas percolate, only touching pen to paper when he feels the time is right.

This is not my experience, nor that of most working writers. Writing is our great joy and passion, but it’s not delicate. The faster our pens move, the faster the ideas come. Taking several days off while waiting for inspiration is what wannabe writers do. Real writers write.

A WRITER’S TIME makes a few valid points, like when Atchity distinguishes between beginning, middle, and end time. Writers can’t expect steady forward progress. A project moves slowly at the beginning and races at the end. Atchity explains why that is and how to schedule writing time accordingly. However, even the good ideas are buried under sentences like this: “Thought control may be the ultimate in time management because it allows you to invoke and exploit your own positive emotions and make them work to shape your will into a lifelike resemblance to your dream.” Um….what?

Even though I liked the idea of this book, after 200 pages of dense prose, I didn’t learn anything new about time management and I certainly didn’t gain any insights into writing. I’m better off learning writing from the many craft books on my shelves. As for time management, I get far better results by treating writing as my job. In other words, writing every day, because the time is always right for writing.


rating: 2 stars


I recommend Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews or The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg instead of this book.

5 thoughts on “A Writer’s Time by Kenneth Atchity

  1. I felt pretty much the same way. There were a few great things in this, but in the end I couldn’t get through it. My attention kept wandering.

    • It’s funny, I read this book as a brand-new baby writer and I thought, “Oh no! I’m doing it wrong!” Turns out I was doing things right–for me. This book taught me to look at how-to books with a critical eye.

  2. “Thought control may be the ultimate in time management…” It’s an interesting phrase, but just thinking hasn’t ever accomplished anything. Thought plus acting on a thought is where you get bang for your time-management buck!

    Full disclosure: I haven’t read the book. I agree that ideas have to percolate. In my experience, percolating isn’t what gives the ideas the depth and sturdiness to withstand being a part of a story. For that to happen, I have to start writing. And then I have to revise. The ideas only get partially prepared in my mind; the rest of the process happens once I see them in juxtaposition to the other ideas on the page. The act of just waiting for ideas to form out of the tension of your mind would be, for me, the end of any writing. The ideas can’t truly become until i write them, and give them context. I guess Atchity’s experience is much different from mine and I’m a little jealous that he’s able to do so much without being tied to a computer/paper to get his writing done!


    • I truly don’t think that Atchity writes much. He has made his living around writing–as a producer, agent, coach. But I think he’s only written a couple of books himself, both non-fiction. I guess I know why….

      • I didn’t look him up, and (shame on me!) assumed that a person writing about how to write would have written several books. I guess I’ll stick to my own writing process. Although I do fancy the idea of several ten day vacations!!

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