This Writers' Wednesday, Historical novelist David Penny offers his insights on using the Pomodoro Technique to work with time and not against it.
I’m a blitz writer. I’m not boasting about it, because I wish I wasn’t, I just am. I can sit down at my desk, put on headphones and play loud, loud music and just write for several hours at a stretch. At the end of it I’ll come out with three or four thousand words and a pain in the neck. Not to be recommended.
Another thing I do is read everything to do with writing, even if only peripherally. Which is how I found out about a thing called Pomodoro.
For those of you who don’t speak Italian (my hand is first up) it means Tomato. Why tomato? I have no idea. If you want to find out more about the concept you can visit the website here.
We live in an age of constant distraction. I don’t know about you, but I only have to see that little balloon pop up in the corner of my desktop that says “Debbie Young replied to your post” before I click on it. Pomodoro doesn’t stop you doing that, but it does make you start to think about the necessity.
In essence Pomodoro says you must do whatever you do in bite sized chunks. The recommended default is 25 minutes. At the end of that time you take a break. Again, they recommend 5 minutes, but you can pick your own intervals. There are a whole bunch of applications you can download that will help you with this. You can find a link to some of them here.
Using these techniques I can write 1,500 words in two 25 minute sessions. I’ve used this fact so I actually now only write for two hours a day, but I write without distraction for that time, leaving me the rest of the day to chase Pokemon (no, not really… oh, go on then…), browse the web and make inappropriate comments on Facebook.
Once those two hour are done I’ve reached my target for the day. The rest of the time is for editing, research, following endless Google trails, taking the dog for a walk and all those other chores that have to be done.
Some of the lessons I’ve learned since starting to use the Pomodoro technique are:
- When your 25 minutes are up and you get a 5 minute break, don’t use it to check your email. Take a walk, make coffee, stare out the window.
- Turn off your email and internet. I link to some of the apps you can download to help with this above.
- Concentrate on the words, even if at first they don’t come. Sitting at a screen doing nothing might feel dumb, but eventually you will start to write if you are disciplined enough not to do something else.
- If you need to look something up (and hey, who doesn’t?) don’t go straight to Google. Make a note somewhere and come back to it. Each session is for writing and nothing else.
- Remember, nothing is perfect, and never will be. Your first draft is just that, a draft. Don’t edit as you go. Each session is for putting words on paper. Fix it later.
So I guess the summary of this short post isn’t really about Pomodoro or writing technique or anything else. It’s about this question:
How important is your writing to you?
Are you willing to turn off all distractions and concentrate on putting down the words. Even if it is only for 25 minutes at a time.
You may not be able to write 750 words in those 25 minutes, you may be able to write more, or a quarter of that. But focusing on the work will definitely make you more effective as a writer.
Enjoy your tomatoes.