In a post that appeared here last fall, Austin Mystery Writer Laura Oles asked the burning question,
Can a technique named after a tomato serve as the answer to your time management woes?
Or, more specifically, what does the writer do when it’s impossible to devote a large block of time–several consecutive hours, at least–to writing?
Laura answered the question with a resounding Yes! and went on to describe her success using the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in 25-minute blocks of time.
After reading her post, I put a Pomodoro on my toolbar. I like it. It helps me log my time, a necessary evil for professional writers, and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.
But my schedule isn’t demanding. I often feel I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to just get through the day, but really–I have time to write. Pomodoro works while I’m writing.
But procrastination–in my case known as staring into space and thinking about what I’m going to do . . . later–wastes time. I need a jump start in order to start writing.
Even the promise an old-fashioned homegrown tomato is not enough of a carrot to lure me to the page. (Sorry about that.) To move me, there must also be a stick. Fortunately, sticks are available.
One I’ve found helpful is a writing challenge: A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80), subtitled The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.
In ROW80, you set your own goals. They must be specific and measurable, but they’re tailored to your needs. The first day of the challenge, you announce your goals in a blog post; then you put a link to your post on the ROW80 Linky.
I won’t try to explain the Linky, but you can read about it in the FAQs.
There are four rounds each year, starting the first Mondays in January, April, July, and October. Each runs eighty days and is followed by several days off. You check in every Sunday and Wednesday with a blog post in which you report your progress. If you need to change your goals, that’s fine. Just state the new ones and go on from there.
Round 1 for 2015 began January 5. Too late to enter? No. Jump in tomorrow or Sunday, or next week . . .
Your obligations, in addition to writing the Sunday and Wednesday posts and listing them on the Linky are 1) to put a link to the Linky page on your post; and 2) to visit the blogs of other ROW80 participants, comment, encourage them.
ROW80 allows flexibility. You choose when and how much you write, and if you don’t meet your goals, you haven’t failed–you’ve learned something. No pain, plenty of gain. The challenge is a stick, but there’s a lot of carrot in it, too.
A slightly stickier stick appears on Ramona DeFelice Long’s blog, which is an excellent resource for writers. Ramona is a professional editor as well as a writer. She’s successful because she works at her craft. In this post, she describes the persistence and determination required of the serious writer:
Writers write. Writers who get published complete work and submit that work to agents and editors. It’s how it works. The way to write for publication is to commit to it. That means nothing–and no one–stands in the way of your writing goals.
Ramona invites readers to take “The Sacred Writing Time Pledge.” As in ROW80, you tailor the pledge to your own needs–within certain parameters. But after that, there’s no wiggle room. A Sacred Pledge is meant to be kept. It’s simple: You do what you said you would do, or you don’t do it.
The pledge is a kind of treaty, too–a formal agreement between the writer and other parties. In most cases, it takes a village to make a writer. You sign the pledge, but there are spaces for your villagers to sign as well.
What I like best about Ramona’s pledge is its focus on the goal most writers aspire to–publication–and its honesty about what it takes to get there.
Now for a summary: In this post, I presented for your edification three techniques:
ROW80, which lets you tailor goals to your needs;
The Sacred Writing Pledge, which a comprises both a pledge and a treaty; and
Pomodoro, which is a tomato.
Singly, or in combination, these three can help turn you into a tenacious writer.
I just read over the paragraph in which I referred to Ramona’s pledge as a stickier stick, and I realize the stick part is a gross exaggeration.
The Sacred Writing Time Pledge contains much more carrot than stick. In the first place, publication is as good a carrot as any writer can aspire to. It’s the literary equivalent of carrot cake.
Also, Ramona reminds us that we take the Sacred Writing Time Pledge not to enter 2015 burdened with an overwhelming task, but with hands open, ready to receive a gift:
Think of it as renewing a vow–or falling in love for the first time, or again—with what you want to write.
Falling in love. What could be better?
Falling in love is carrot cake with a dollop of ice cream on the side.
And now, for tenacious readers, a pilon:
Cowhide makes the best of leather.
It should. It keeps a cow together.
~ Ogden Nash (of course)
Posted by Kathy Waller,
who also blogs at
To Write Is to Write Is to Write