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Writing on Tomato Time – Creating a Writing Routine

Memoir writer Shanda McManus shares how she uses the Pomodoro Method, breaking her writing time down into manageable intervals.

By Shanda McManus

May 16, 2022

I use tomato time when I don’t want to write but should. Tomato time is my name for the Pomodoro Method. This method uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short five-minute breaks. On my worst I-don’t-want-to-write days, I can handle at least one tomato. I mean 25 minutes, I can do that —can’t I? Yes, my hourglass sand timer tells me. And, almost without fail, I complete one tomato, then another.

Writing Time Breakdown

Breaking my writing time down into tomatoes or longer customized units with a start and end time helps me sustain concentration. And then I get an earned reward of goof-off time that I use to check Twitter or email without the guilt. Writing becomes a series of short sprints instead of a long marathon.

My most successful sprints are in the 30 minutes before I leave for my job as a physician. Writing against the clock gives me focus and freedom. I am more productive and creative when I know there is a limit to how long I can write. Writing then becomes a treat or indulgence that ends when I have to go to work.

So if you’re having trouble staying focused while writing your book, give tomato time a try.

Shanda McManus has been featured in Intima Journal of Narrative Medicine, Midnight & Indigo, and other publications.