October 22, 2019

Creating Time for Creative Writing


Paul Graham, Internet Pioneer

Paul Graham, Internet Pioneer

Paul Graham, an internet pioneer, distinguishes between two types of schedules: the manager‘s and the maker‘s schedule.

“The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.”

In contrast, the maker’s schedule is not so flexible. Writers (and computer programmers and other creatives) tend to use time in half-day units (morning, afternoon, evening) or longer. It can take an hour just to get started.

Scheduling a meeting is disastrous for makers: it interrupts a block of time, it requires remembering to go to the meeting, and it disorients the creative process. Makers live for those days without meetings or appointments to disrupt things.

So what if you are a maker who has manager duties? Or a writer who also freelances?

As an author consultant and literary agent, I find Graham’s solution genius.

Graham is a programmer who helped manage a start-up. He tucked the manager’s schedule inside his maker’s schedule. He arrived at work at Noon and do manager-type things until dinner. Then after dinner, he programmed until about 3 a.m. without interruption.

His company is a venture capital company, so he also planned speculative meetings with potential investment opportunities by treating it as a part-day.

Cal Newport, a professor of programming, put me onto Paul Graham. Professor Newport has also done some deeper thinking on a system for what he calls “Getting Creative Things Done.” (Check out his blog to see how his “GCTD system” works. It’s really elegant.)

I have come to a two-point system:

  1. Each week, schedule several half-days for a creative project.
  2. Work in those times on your creative process, not on a checklist of goals.

The second point is as essential as the first, and the result can appear to be a series of rules. For example, focus on only one project at a time. Do not answer emails or take phone calls during the creative times. And so on. Discover what keeps your creativity charged and do this.

Would it help if you met with someone each week to review last week and get more creative work?

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