Writing the Pomodoro Way

Summer and its more relaxed schedule is such a mixed blessing. I love not dragging my girls out of bed at six in the morning. This year we have several weeks with no camps at all, when I’ll be working from home. It’s lovely, even if the together time gets a little intense (queue the sibling squabbling). I write best on a strict schedule: that’s what’s great about the school year. In the past, I’ve played around with The Pomodoro Technique, but recently I’ve started using it more and I think it might just be my summer solution. 

I have to admit the first couple weeks of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, I was seriously struggling to meet my commitments. It’s not just finding the time, another big part of the problem is that I’m working on longer projects. I didn’t plan this, it seems to be just happening. I have no trouble diving into revisions for a 10 to 20 page story, but the one I’m currently working on is 45 pages and set to get longer.*

In fact, I’m using The Pomodoro Technique right now, to write this blog post. The idea is to just commit to 25 minutes at a time, with short breaks in between and longer ones every three to four Pomodoros. By keeping track of how many Pomodoros it takes to complete a project, I also have some data about how long it takes to, say, edit 60 pages. Data that will definitely help me plan my upcoming writing.

But the real strength of this technique, is that it helps me break through a particular emotional barrier that often causes me to put off work. It’s the reluctance to even start on a project that is certainly too long and complex to accomplish in a couple of days. Instead of thinking of those 60 pages, where it seems every single sentence needs fixing and every other paragraph needs rearranging, I just focus on putting in 25 minutes. My obligation is no longer to revise this whole stack of pages, just to do what I can while the timer runs down.

I don’t use the actual tomato timer pictured above. I don’t think I could write through the ticking. I have Focus Booster on my computer which has a nice bar that changes from green to red to yellow as the time goes by. I have Focus Time on my iPod, this one costs a couple of dollars but there are some free ones also and, obviously, any timer will work. (Don’t let me love of gadgets and apps deter you from trying this simple technique.)

So, if you have big projects but don’t have big swaths of time, ** consider trying the Pomodoro Technique.

And now for something completely different. If you haven’t read The Gyre yet, it is now available to read for free on The Colored Lens’ website.

* Last week, I took the first 6,000 words (30 pages) of my current story to my Writers’ Group. I got loads of valuable opinions. At the end, I asked the group if I should go shorter – try to pare it down to short story length, or go longer. Everyone said, “Longer!” Some even suggesting it could be a novel. I was all like, “Whoa, let’s not get crazy here.” But, I can see many points where I can expand this story to novella length. 

** Pretty much the foreseeable future for me.

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