Author’s note: Tekton Press was the first business I ran. Although I shut it down to do the technology consulting I love, I’m leaving this article here in the hope that it helps you as a writer.
Writer’s block sucks.
“Thanks, Paul. You’re a genius. Tell me something I don’t know!”
Okay, here goes.
I’m going to tell you exactly how to slay the demon of writer’s block before it has a chance to haunt your dreams and possess your body.
We’re going to do that by combining the Pomodoro Technique and the Hemingway Technique.
I learned about the Pomodoro Technique from Steve Scott, a very accomplished author.
Here’s how it works.
Set a timer, like the one on your phone, for 25 minutes and start writing.
As soon as the alarm sounds, stop writing. Do not complete your paragraph or even the sentence. Stop immediately.
Congratulations! You have just completed one Pomodoro!
Get up take a walk around or do another activity for five minutes. After five minutes, perform another Pomodoro by repeating the process.
After four Pomodoros, take a longer break. Aim for at least 15 minutes.
Personally, I like to take a walk outside. Since I live in Florida, that gives me plenty of time to get my daily dose of natural vitamin D. The context switch also helps refresh my mind and do a little daydreaming.
If you have time or the spirit moves you, you can return to writing for another set of Pomodoros.
Now, I like to combine this technique with the next one.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a name for it, so we’ll just call it the Hemingway Technique for simplicity’s sake.
Nadia Ballas-Ruta, a freelance writer and frequent traveler, wrote about this after reading Hemingway in Paris.
Here’s the passage:
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.
I don’t remember who originally suggested it, but they took this idea one step further by advising writers to stop in the middle of a sentence while their writing is “going good.”
I’ve combined this with the Pomodoro Technique. When the timer goes off, I make sure to stop mid-sentence.
What I’ve found is that, when it’s time to sit down and write again, I have absolutely no problem starting right back up. By returning to the sentence in question and completing a thought, it’s almost like flipping the writing switch inside my head back to “On.”
A word of warning: while I do advise using the Pomodoro and Hemingway Techniques regularly, don’t be a stickler.
You’ve probably experienced the “flow state,” where words are just pouring out of your mind faster than you can type them.
If you’re in flow and the alarm goes off, just reset your timer for another 25 minutes. Don’t shut down the flow state unnecessarily. Chances are, you’ll have enough momentum to complete that next 25 minute block.
If, on the other hand, your words are slowing down, go ahead and stop mid-sentence and take that five minute break.
This has been a game-changer for me. I followed this approach when I wrote my book, and do so as well when writing longer blog posts and articles.
What do you think? Have you tried this method?