Tomato Testimonial

Like most of the other bloggers on this site I’ve been having trouble meeting my writing goals lately (and non-writing goals for that matter).  In fact it’s been hard to even get started lately.  I won’t bore you with the specifics of the excuses.  Like most excuses they feel valid at the time but criminally lame after the fact.  I’ve had success in the past with written schedules but the latest attempt was less than successful.  All seemed lost.

Last week though Tim wrote a post right here on Writing is Cake about the Pomodoro Technique.  He heard about it at a presentation at Iginite Phoenix, an event you should attend if you’re nearby, failing that check out their site and youtube channel.  At any rate something about it peaked my curiosity enough to check out the Ignite preso and the Pomodoro site.  I’ve been using it for a few days now and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Let me tell ya people, this is a great time management protocol.  It sounds a little gimmicky at first and I suppose it is with jargony terms and phrases.  But when you get good results who cares?

The planning/time management phase is simple enough.  You make a sort of master ‘to do’ list called an Activity Inventory.  From that list you pick items that go on a ‘To Do Today’ list and estimate how many pomodoros the task will take.  Pomodoro being an indivisible unit of 25 minutes with a 3-5 minute break at the end.  Simple right?  But it lets you prioritize tasks in any number of ways.

Even more important for me is it lets you break down any task into smaller goals.  Not only does this lessen the sense of being overwhelmed by tasks, it means you always have a sense of making progress.  It keeps you you positive, in the moment, and focused.  And speaking of focus…my problem isn’t so much procrastination.  I can usually get started alright but staying on task is brutal.  Distraction is my demon and he is legion!  Dealing with distractions is built into the system.  Not by ignoring them but by acknowledging them.  If you feel a distraction brewing you actually write it down and make a decision whether to address it or move on with the task.  Of course most of them are easily put off and you’ll quickly be amazed how much work you get done in 25 minutes when that 25 minutes is only work.

So give it a try.  Read Tim’s post, check out the Ignite video, check out the Pomodoro site  If you’re not sure if it’ll work start small.  Try a two or three pomodoro task and see how it feels.  I’m hooked and I’m pretty sure you will be, too.  Thanks go to Tim, Greg Head, and Jeff and the Ignite Cadre.

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Tempus Fugit

Time flies, baby!  It’s hard to believe but it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again.  This is your call to arms…or pens…or probably PC’s…whatever, you get the idea.  Now is the time to do it.  Now is the time to put aside procrastination, self-doubt, and realistic expectations.  Don’t think about it, just sign up and do it.  It’s only fifty thousand words in one month.  If that sounds scary it shouldn’t.  It doesn’t have to be good or even coherent really.  This is the no-more-excuses event so I don’t really want to hear any excuses.  And even though I’m not exactly a veteran (I’ve done one ScriptFrenzy and one NaNo) I’m going to presume to give some advice.

1.  Do it.  This falls under the ‘I don’t want to hear your excuses’ category.  I’m a worse procrastinator than most and I’m doin’ it.

2.  Don’t over think it. If you have an outline or a plot figured out that’s fine.  If you don’t that’s fine too.  Personally, I look at this as more of an opportunity for pure storytelling.  Speed and word count are the aims, not polish and finesse.  Now’s the time to play fast and loose.  Let the story go wherever you, or it, wants instead of trying to stay on track with outlines.

3.  Don’t get behind. You’re gonna get behind anyway but I thought I’d give the advice.  Try your damnedest to make the daily word count.  If it’s going well try to get ahead.  If you do get ahead resist the temptation to coast, or worse, skip a day.  Word count is the boss of you.

4.  Don’t worry about finishing. Number 3 being said, don’t rend your garments or anything if it looks like you’re not going to make it.  Fifty thousand is the goal but for a finished novel it’s probably a little light anyway.  This is almost like a supercharged free writing exercise.  You’re getting words on paper, you’re getting an honest draft, you’re getting that story idea out.  What you’re probably not getting, even if you finish is a complete novel.  The idea is to reach the goal and keep going but if you only hit twenty thousand…hey, it’s twenty thousand you wouldn’t have had if you skipped NaNo.

5.  Have fun. Remember the fast and loose of number 2?  This is the rush of storytelling.  That crazy first draft when you can’t believe you’re actually writing a novel.  Many of you know the rush I’m talking about.  If you have never written anything for fun trust me, you’re missing out.  The whole NaNoWriMo site is geared toward making writing accesible to anyone who wants to do it for the sheer fun of it.  The last time I did it was some of the most enjoyable writing I’ve ever done.

Are you in?

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