Struggling to write? Tomatoes to the rescue…

I am very easily distracted – and, as I am my own boss, I don’t have a manager breathing down my throat to make me do the work.

But despite that, I’ve written 20+ books. My secret?


To be more accurate, POMODOROS – named after old-school tomato-shaped kitchen timers which typically counted out 25-30 minutes of cooking time. The idea behind this simple technique is that by dividing any task into 25-minute bursts, we can make it less daunting and therefore more doable. And that includes writing books. Not to mention any other kind of activity – school study, admin, housework or whatever you sometimes avoid doing…

We all get moments when we’re struggling to find focus, especially with a big challenge like writing a novel. Pomodoros make me feel less stressed. I use a free timer on my laptop desktop – this one, if you’re interested – and begin telling myself I only have to complete ONE pomodoro or 25-minute cycle. 

The benefits of 25-minute tomato cycles

  • It’s a short, doable chunk of time – most people, even if they’re busy, can find 25 minutes for something they really want to do.
  • Creative work can be hard to quantify – you might write a scene or section, only to edit or delete it later. But time is a quantifiable thing, so you can measure your progress in pomodoros or 25-minute chunks. I set myself a certain number to complete every day.
  • The process also builds in a 5 minute break after the 25-minutes, before you move onto another pomodoro – neatly dividing your working time into 30-minute sections.

How it works for me:

  1. I set the timer going on my desktop – it’s running right now, and it shames me into not going off and making a coffee/painting my nails/checking Facebook.
  2. I actually enjoy totting up my completed pomodoros, and even exceeding my target.
  3. Mostly, I find it also reduces the pressure on me to produce high quality work or writing in a first draft – so long as I keep going, I have succeeded, however poor the writing seems.
  4. Because, as I’ve learned from 17 years as a published author, good writing involves editing – and you can’t edit a blank page

A definite benefit for anxious writers and those with vivid imaginations

I’ve written recently about how I struggle especially in anxious times, like now – you can read my 3 strategies for dealing with uncertainty by doing nice things in this post.

But when it comes to working, we need a different strategy.

I’ve been using the technique for over 10 years now. I would definitely recommend it – let me know how you get on…

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About Kate

I'm Kate Harrison - a novelist and non-fiction writer based by the sea in England. I also write thrillers as Kate Helm and epic love stories as Eva Carter. I also appear on TV and radio discussing healthy eating, diet, mental health and women's issues. View all posts by Kate →

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