empowerment / writing

Time and Tomatoes by Ruth Fitzgerald

I have exactly 30 minutes to write this.

Starting now!

I have been talking to my Creative Writing students this week about time management. Time management is one of those things writers seem to struggle with greatly, and I am no exception. Having a new batch of students made me realise this is something I need to address with them and also myself.

No one ever has enough time. Writers, especially those early in their writing careers, nearly always have other jobs. There are family commitments, social commitments and that amazing new series you want to watch on TV and even reading. Yes, reading, marvellous as it is for feeding the writing imagination, takes up time. So how do we fit it all in?

Of course there are some things we can give up. A little less TV is usually a good start, and do you really need to go to volunteer for the school fete again this year? But even if we’re very frugal with our time and carve out some regular writing hours the speed with which we can fritter them away is alarming. I know. My writing days can disappear in a woolly haze of planning and thinking and ‘I think I’ll make a pie – ing’.

This needs to stop, people!


My resolution for 2017 is to get more writing done and to do this I’m going to have to manage my time as if the biggest, baddest, meanest boss in town is coming into check on my progress.

I’ve tried all sorts of schedules and lists and time-planners in the past without great success. Recently, however. I’ve started using the Pomodoro technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, it’s named after those tomato shaped kitchen timers. The idea is to give yourself periods of concentration where you do nothing except the task you want to achieve (like writing this blog) and then small breaks to refresh your brain. I’ve found that thirty minutes writing and ten minutes off works well for me. I can write a lot in thirty minutes. And if I repeat the exercise five or six times by the end of one morning I’ve accomplished more than if I otherwise do in a couple of days. The ten minute breaks are good as well, time enough to make a cup of tea, put the washing on and answer an email before getting tight back into the work with no distractions. I don’t look at emails, messages or anything else until my break – anyone can wait thirty minutes for a response.

There’s a rule called Parkinson’s Law which states that work expands to fit the time allotted and I think this method proves the point.

I now have three minutes 38 seconds left to find a picture of a Pomodoro timer. And then I’m going to have a cup of tea!

4 thoughts on “Time and Tomatoes by Ruth Fitzgerald

    • I’m talking about getting the dreaded first draft down. I have to really work hard to stop myself editing as I go along because that way lies, what my friend Hayley calls ‘the never ending revolving door of doom’. I actually really like editing so for me it’s getting the first draft down and finished that’s hard.

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