The Assumption That Most Writers Get Wrong by Dr. Ken Atchity

Film Courage: Ken, I have a quote here from the late author Phillip Roth. And the quote is “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”

Dr. Ken Atchity, Author/Producer: It’s worse than good intentions right? And was that a question?

Film Courage: It’s a statement and a question I guess? Do you have any ideas on this? I know it’s kind of just a thing I’m throwing out here.

Dr. Atchity: Well I think unfinished works are the kind of characteristic debris of the writer’s life, of any visionary’s life. I mean the discards that Leonardo da Vinci had in his studio were prodigious and you just have a lot of ideas and you can’t do them all.

And one of the methods that I’ve developed over the years is to actually set aside a new idea and give it a two week rest and check in with it in 2 weeks to see if you even remember the idea. And the key to doing that as a writer is not to write it down. See it’s like a basic rule that I have is that if you have an idea and as a writer your immediate goal is to write it down (get it down) because that’s what writers do, if you can train your brain not to do that you are going to have much better product in the long run because you are not writing every single thing down including every bad thing.

By not writing it down when you revisit it in 2 weeks from now, if you don’t remember it, that’s great. That means one lousy idea went away as opposed to trying to do something with every single idea that you have.

I think that’s part of what creative people learn is how to manage their own minds and because I was an accountant’s son, I long ago analyzed the creative process, the creative mind and decided that they weren’t just crazy (the way a lot of people think). There actually is a method to creativity and in fact it spreads across every discipline whether you are a physicist or a mathematician or an inventor or a writer or an artist. The creative process has the same steps and the same general pattern. If you can understand the process you aren’t nearly as neurotic as if you don’t understand it.

One of my goals was to not be crazy. Salvador Dalí said (one of my favorite things about this is) he said “The different between this and madman is that I am not mad.” And I love that because it’s exactly what I am talking about, it’s understanding the method in your madness as Shakespeare put it. If you can understand that then you don’t have to be unhappy or neurotic in order to be a productive writer.

Film Courage: Speaking of which (writing things down), do you make lists?

Dr. Atchity: I do make lists but kind of…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

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