In which I repent my foolish ways and embrace the dark side (where writing is stupid easy).
I thought it was a gimmick. The way I think most productivity tools are gimmicks. So I ignored everyone who said it was great.
I wish I’d tried it sooner.
Enter the Pomodoro Technique. The oh-so-simple way to keep your head in the game while you’re writing. Here’s a quick run down of what it’s all about.
Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian. Why tomato? No reason except that’s what the kitchen timer it’s named after looks like. The idea is to break up your work day—using that kitchen timer or one of the many Pomodoro apps—into 25-minute intervals, with a 5-minute break in between.
Writing should be easy. Writing should be fun. This list of Free Tools for Fiction Writers—we’re talking free software, free courses, and all kinda online resources—puts the easy and fun back into your writing.
Where should I send it?
Don’t let that simplicity fool you. What looks like a piddly, timed work session actually improves your focus, productivity, mental agility, and takes a lot of the stress out of writing.
Maybe you’re laughing at me right now. I wouldn’t blame you. I am kind of late to the Pomodoro party. I blame my inherent cynicism, which—in my defense—usually protects my writing time from useless fads.
So, yes, I heard of the Pomodoro Technique ages ago. I even tried the Pomodoro Technique back then. But I didn’t give it the fair shake it deserved at the time, and I gave up too soon. And that sucks because I’ve written more using the Pomodoro Technique in the last few weeks than I have the entire rest of the year.
Maybe I’d have a few novels under my belt if I’d stuck with it all those years ago. But sigh and c’est la vie. The Pomodoro’s mine now. And I’m using it to conquer the muse. That fickle bitch.
And before you ask, I’ll tell you what finally cut through my cynicism and pride. A fellow blogger interviewed this amazing author on her site recently.
Now this author’s success sliced right through my sneer-veneer because she didn’t just write a complete novel in three months. She wrote that novel, sent it to beta readers, revised it using their feedback, sent that revision to a professional editor, revised it again, commissioned the cover art and formatting, and then had its completed perfection on the virtual shelves. All inside of three months.
That’s not a typo. She had it done. In. Three. Months.
I read that interview and immediately fought the urge to delete every single blog post and tweet I’d ever written that betrayed just how long I’ve worked on my Writers of the Future story. And then I got to the finding out how she did it so I could do it too.
Guess what she credited her success to? Yep, the Pomodoro Technique. Dang me and my cynicism.
So how much more writing will you burn through using the Pomodoro Technique? Well that depends on what’s tripping you up when you sit down to write.
Last time I shared how I’d switched from a daily word count goal to something that didn’t make me chew the inside of my cheeks and nails to bloody stumps. Now I write by time blocks instead. That relieved enough of the creative pressure to get me actually writing most days.
But something was missing.
Each day I sat down at my desk at the scheduled time, I’d worry about everything else I wasn’t accomplishing while I wrote. With fingertips on keyboard I’d try to get into my protagonist’s head. But all I could think is how I hadn’t tweeted in awhile. So I’d switch over to Twitter and draft out a tweet.
Only then I’d wonder how my coaching clients were doing. And what about the Blog Your Way to a Writing Career program script waiting to be written? And the b-roll I needed to shoot? And…
You get the point.
At the end of each day, I’d feel like I just ran a psychic marathon and have nothing to show for the strain. Sound familiar?
Here’s how the Pomodoro Technique can help you write more and stress less.
#1 The Pomodoro Technique Eliminates Writing Distractions
This one is obvious. And it’s kind of what Pomodoro is all about. But the surprise here is in how it accomplishes this vital task. I mean, the Pomodoro is just a chunk of 25 minutes after all. There’s no magic in that. Except in the way it affects a scattered mind.
Because for that 25 minutes, you’re not allowed to do anything else but focus on whatever task you set for yourself. Everytime you think of something else on your to do list, you jot it down to do later. Or you reassure yourself that there’s a pomodoro for that too. Later.
And even when the writing goes like shit, it’s only ever 25 minutes till your next break. Whew!
#2 Pomodoro Writers Work with The Brain’s Natural Rhythms, Not Against Them
This one’s kind of amazing because, supposedly, these chunked out time blocks with their little 5 minute breaks between give your mind a chance to retain information. That sounds like a moment for the brain to convert a short term memory into a long one to me. Which, even if you aren’t studying, is great for retaining anything you’ve learned about the writing craft during the last pomodoro.
#3 The Pomodoro Technique Gets You out of Your Head and into the Story Moment (Vital for INTJ and Other Intuitive-Type Writers)
You’ll uncover a myriad surprise perks when you use the Pomodoro Technique. This one helped me because, as an INTJ writer, I love the outline stage of writing. The making connections stage. The identifying themes stage. But I hate the actual writing.
You can see how that threatens my writing dreams, I’m sure. Because I struggle to stay in the moment with my characters.
So it gets me through the story. And if you’re an N on the MBTI index, Pomodoro may do the same for you.
#4 Slip into ‘Writing Mode’ Every Time You Sit Down To Write (Pomodoro Acts Like a Psychological Hack for Stressed Out Writers)
At first I hated that Pomodoro clock-tick. Now it’s part of what makes the Pomodoro so effective.
So give yourself time to adjust to the sound. At first it distracts. Then it’s white noise. Then it’s the auditory cue that tells your brain to slip into writing mode. Like a Pavlovian dog, you’ll hear the tick and start the keyboard click.
#5 Write Faster By Slowing Down with Pomodoro’s ‘Chunked Time’ Approach
So this perk was another surprise from the Pomodoro Technique. Because when I’m nestled in the sweet low-stress cradle that is a Pomodoro session, I don’t have to write every second. There’s plenty of time to stare off into space. To immerse into the narrative. To take my time with the words.
It’s kind of nuts, but writing this way helped me produce MORE words than ever. Mostly because it’s easier to follow through when I commit to a scheduled writing session. But also because it’s easier to stay in the moment without getting distracted by other projects all vying for my attention, even in those moments I slow down.
#6 Time Flies When You Write with The Pomodoro Technique
You’ll wonder where the time went. Did I really just write for two hours straight? Maybe I fell asleep. Nope. There’s three thousand new words I just wrote. Unless I’m sleep writing, I think I just found the solution to that whole never wanting to write thing. Huh. Who knew it could be so easy?
What a Relief!
It’s a relief to have the tool I need to go after what I want. And writing obstacles whither against that Pomodoro tick-tock.
I’ve made a lot of progress on my story these past weeks since I embraced the Pomodoro Technique. And the best part is, I wrote it all without the usual stress.
Okay. It’s T minus Pomodoro, writer. Have you tried it?
Share your experience in the comments.
CC Riley says
Wow. I’m definitely going to have to try this. I’ve done timed writing before, but never with a ticking tomato to signify the time.
Let me know how it turns out, CC.
I’ve been extremely skeptical of the pomodoro technique since I’ve heard about it. I tried it a couple times and it didn’t seem that helpful. Maaaaaybe I need to push aside my skepticism and give it a real try. Maybe then I’ll actually end up writing… For both my blog and my book…
I wonder why it’s so easy to be skeptical about Pomodoro. Maybe it’s because it seems so simple. Or because it seems like a fad. Either way, I was surprised to find that it worked so well. Good luck, Jes!
This is an excellent article. I’ve been trying to finish the very first draft of my novel by the time my classes start back up. I’ve never heard of this technique, but my mom is an avid flylady fan. I never thought of applying something similar to my writing. I’m going to give it shot, washing dishes in a limited time frame is easier after all.
Mandy Wallace says
These little psychological hacks can be very effective for writers. Never heard of flylady. I’ll give it a look. Thanks for stopping in, Emilee.
MM Jaye says
Thanks for the link to my post, Mandy! Kim’s interview did hit a raw nerve with many writers. I’ve tried this technique myself, and it does work. But working with your editor while writing? I think that’s the key to fast output.What better motivation than that? Of course, Kim’s editor is a friend who’s not on the market, so there you go…
Her new book will be out in early August. Don’t hate me. I’m just the messenger.
I read all your suggestions and this Pomodoro technique is definitely something I can use and stick to it. I appreciate your input. Today will be my first day trying it out!
Good luck, Lupita! Pomodoro helps me stay focused on even the toughest days. Hope it works out well for you.
I’m new to the writing game. I started just three months ago to develop my first blog and try my hand at short fiction to test the waters but so far have produced only 3 posts and submitted one story (which I think is quite good). But I’m all over the place, watching tutorials, reading this sort of stuff, jotting down new blog ideas etc. My head is bursting with great ideas but I’m producing little! I’m an INTJ too and I am so going to try this. Thanks
It’s great to hear that this not only inspired you but also got you producing, Bev. That’s great! It’s wonderful that you’re focused on the positive. It sounds like you’ve been looking for somewhere to touch down with all your ideas and that you’ve finally found it. Best wishes!
I was skeptical, but the parts about being able to remember better and getting into the story really got to me. I’m an INTJ as well, and I’ve found that one of my biggest setbacks is getting really distracted by whatever thought pops into my head at any given moment, so I believe this will help me a lot.
(That is, if I ever accept that my outline can’t be perfect and actually get to the writing part … )
Yes, JupJay! That’s a HUGE problem for me too. Different ideas popping up while I’m working. Pomodoro allows for jotting down quick notes so you don’t forget what you were thinking of. And the way I write is just jump-aroundy anyway. As long as I’m writing in my story during that Pomodoro stretch, though, I’m happy for the progress.
And, yes again. Feeling like the outline needs to be perfect before writing is another obstacle. Too bad my outline then changes so much anyway while I write. Maybe this article will help with the perfectionism: http://mandywallace.com/writing-perfectionist/
Thanks for sharing your insights.
Thanks for the article, I needed it.
I don’t even bother with an outline until I’ve finished the first draft. I never know what I’m going to write until I have written it. My most recent project started as a creative non-fiction, but has turned into 100% fiction after I started mentally arguing with my characters (my main character “screamed” at me: “I don’t care what you were *planning* to write about; I’m telling you, *This* is how the story is going to go!”
Janice Patricia Griffin says
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 (Mandy’s 15 minute challenge
A LITTLE UP ON A DREARY DAY BY J. P. GRIFFIN copyright, Janice Griffin 2015
Lazily, lacking luster, dull amid the quandary of eventful nonevents, she lounges in front of a very old movie…hoping for regeneration…the filling of those exhausted batteries…
When there’s a knock on the door!
“Do I have to move”, she groans..
“Probably just another solicitor.”
Hair hanging, lipstick faded, paunch paunchy, she shuffles to the door..
Not bothering to use the peek hole, she jars the door open as if to say,
“Yah…wadda you want!”
Indeed..standing before her if a guy in a space suit with a ray gun!
She roars into laughter, “ So wadda you want!”
“annaw evil ni ruoy esuoh!” says the guy….
“ Oh, come on…who are you!” she asks
The guy swipes his hand across the face of his space helmut..
And there before her, in a space suit, behind the “glass” mask stands, what looks like a 6 foot 6 frog like person!
“Holy Crap!” She says, “OK, this is very funny.”
“So now take off the stupid helmet and that ridiculous mask!”
“Ssik Em! SSik Em! Ssik Em! “He says”
She looks around for some strange dog.. “ Nope , no dog!” she says…
Then…since her adrenaline has begun to peek, she allows her dull brain to translate his talk….ssik em….. kiss me…. “You’re speaking backwards..that’s it! Isn’t it? You want me to kiss you! Right?
“Thgir!” he says, and puckers up his froggy lips under glass.
“Well,” she thinks, “ this shouldn’t be so hard” So she puckers her lips and
kisses the glass!
Suddenly she’s plastered to him and spinning around at dynamo speed!
When finally done….he’s changed….”He’s now a frog in her clothes..without a space suit…..and …and ..she is wearing the space suit and suddenly is shoot to the skies by some unbelievable force!
“Oh my God!” She cries, I asked for a “lift” today and here it is!
Would we ever see her again? I don’t know! Ask the frog who lives in her house and is a cross dresser!
Sam @ Love & Wonderful says
At first, I’m really skeptical about Pomodoro technique. But I really enjoy having it to work on my projects and writing my blog posts. Instead of 25 minutes mark, I do one hour, which I take a 5-minute break after an hour since I spend one to two hour on writing my blog posts and other projects anyway. This really helps me in the long run and does increase my productivity!