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Getting Back on the Horse

Last weekend, after meeting several deadlines (both real and self-imposed) and hacking my way through two difficult revisions during the week, I decided to take a weekend away from writing. I needed a break.

During the weekend I didn’t write any fiction, at all. I didn’t look at my collection-in-progress. Didn’t even think about it. I read parts of a biography, planned a few blog posts, and that was about it.

When Monday rolled around, I thought I was ready to get back on the horse.

And the horse bucked me right off.

I kept putting off the stories. I kept telling myself, let me read one more email or Tweet one more Tweet, then I’ll pick up the pages and the red pen and dive back in. It didn’t happen.

The Pomodoro Technique is a structured work environment developed by Francesco Cirillo. More information is available at

Over the last few months I’ve been in a pretty consistent groove with my writing. I haven’t required any major structure to keep me going. But when I hit these lulls, it is time to re-structure my writing life. Rigorously.

When I can’t get back on track the way I want, I utilize the Pomodoro Technique. In short, the Pomodoro Technique utilizes a visible timer that ticks as a visual and audio reminder that “this is work time.” When the timer goes off, you have a short break (also timed) and repeat the cycle. The other part of this technique that is important when I need structure is that when a non-work related impulse (I need to check email, I wonder who’s on Facebook, I forgot to buy toilet paper at Wal-Mart) creeps into your work, you write it down, then put it out of your mind.

I’ve used this method in the past, and it is a great way to force myself back into a creative rhythm. The quality of the work may suffer at first, but I’ve found that the only way the quality returns is to work, work, work until everything is flowing freely again. I also know that one day–or one weekend–can quickly become weeks, even months, if I don’t force myself back on the horse.

Do you have any “checks and balances” for your writing routine? What do YOU do to get back on track? Do you simply wait for your muse, or do you go looking for her?

P.S. The basics of the Pomodoro Technique are easy to learn, and the website has some great information about the “how” and “why” of basic Pomodoro practices. I use a modified Pomodoro because I’ve found my creative rhythm to be most in-tune when I use longer periods than the default. I came to that conclusion after trying the default for several weeks, then lengthening the time until I found the right frequency.

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