Blogging · On Writing · The Good Life

A Most Sacred Tomato

She ticks merrily along, not knowing and not seeming to care, that I am in agony here. I don’t know how much more I can take.

I sneak a glance over at her shiny waist. The number Ten stares back. Ten more minutes of her cheery countdown until I am finished with this current bout with my novel in progress.

For the past 58 minutes, I have wrestled with goals, motivations, and conflicts for the protagonist as well as those of her apparent and secret antagonists. It hasn’t been a solid hour, nor even nonstop struggle. The time was divided neatly: 25 minutes on; 18 minutes off (the dog cornered a bunny that needed rescue); and 15 minutes into this latest round of 25 minutes.

My daughter suggested that I give the Pomodoro Technique a try when I told her how hard it was to write my story. In the 1980s, an Italian student created this low-tech approach to project management: common kitchen timer (the ubiquitous tomato — pomodoro is Italian for tomato), paper, and pencil. Twenty-five minutes in, a few minutes off, then 25 more minutes in. Complete two sessions like this and then take a longer break. Here’s where I started: Since then, I’ve switched up timing and method, but at heart, it’s the original sacred tomato.

While the timer doesn’t have to be a tomato (timer apps and countdown tools work as well), a tomato timer is the reality check ally at my side when I do battle with fierce giants. She counts down 25 minutes while I stare at the page or lay down phenomenal scenes. Then she dances her pinging finale. I save my work, stand and stretch, and head downstairs to check on my dog, refresh my coffee, and enjoy a world made vivid and pleasurable from my time in battle. My tomato ticks in an upbeat, optimistic way that reminds me that any struggles will not last forever. On good writing days, her countdown fades away when I am absorbed in work and on the not-so-good ones, she reminds me that I’ve been here before and come out just fine and, anyway, it will be over soon.


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