The Kitchen Timer

The principle of Kitchen Timer is that every writer deserves a definite and doable way of being and feeling successful every day.

To do this, we learn to judge ourselves on behaviour rather than content.  We set up a goal for ourselves as writers that is easy, measurable, free of anxiety, and, above all, fail-proof, because everyone can sit, and an hour will always pass.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:

  1. Buy a kitchen timer, one that goes to 60 minutes.  Or use a timer app.  Or tell Siri to start a timer for 60 minutes.
  2. We decide on Monday how many hours of writing we will do Tuesday.  When in doubt or under pressure or self-attack, we choose fewer hours rather than more.  A good, strong beginning is one hour a day, but a half hour is also good, or twenty minutes.  Some of us make appointments in our calendar for these hours, as if they are lunch meetings or business calls.
  3. The Kitchen Timer hour:
    • No phones.  No texts.  We silence ringers; we turn our phones facedown.  It is our life; we are entitled to one hour without interruption, particularly from loved ones.  We ask for their support.  “I was on an hour” is something they learn to understand.  But they won’t respect it unless we do first.
    • No music with words, unless it’s a language we don’t understand.  Headphones with a white noise app can be helpful.
    • No Internet, absolutely.  We turn off our computer’s Wi-Fi.
    • No reading.
    • No pencil-sharpening, desk-tidying, organising.
  4. Immediately upon beginning the hour, we open two documents:  our journal, and the project we are working on.  If we don’t have a project we’re actively working on, we just open our journal.
  5. An hour consists of TIME SPENT KEEPING OUR WRITING APPOINTMENT.  That’s it.  We don’t have to write at all, if we are happy to stare at the screen or the page.  Nor do we have to write a single word on our current project; we may spend the entire hour writing in our journal.  Anything we write in our journal is fine; ideas for future projects, complaints about loved ones, what we ate for dinner, even “I hate writing” typed four hundred times.//When we wish or if we wish, we pop over to the current project document and write for as long as we like.  When we get tired or want a break, we pop back to the journal.//The point is, when disgust or fatigue with the current project arises, we don’t take a break by getting up from our desk.  We take a break by returning to the comforting arms of our journal, until that in turn bores us.  Then we are ready to write on our project again, and so on.  We use our boredom in this way.//IT IS ALWAYS OKAY TO WRITE EXCLUSIVELY IN OUR JOURNAL.  In practice it may rarely happen that we spend the full hour in our journal, but it’s fine, good, and right if it does.  It is just as good a writing day as one spent entirely in our current project.
  6. It is infinitely better to write fewer hours every day than many hours one day and none the next.  If we have a crowded weekend, we choose a half or quarter hour as our time, put in that time, and go on with our day.  We are always trying to minimise our resistance, and beginning an hour on Monday after two days off is a challenge.
  7. When the hour is up, we stop, even if we’re in the middle of a sentence.  If we have scheduled another hour, we give ourselves a break before beginning again—to read, eat, go on errands.  We are not trying to create a cocoon we must stay in between hours (the old “I’m sorry, I can’t see anyone or leave my house—I’m on a deadline” method).  Rather, inside the hour is the inviolate time.
  8. If we fail to make our hours for the day, we have scheduled too many.  Four hours a day is an enormous amount of time spent in this manner, for example.  If on Wednesday we planned to write two hours and didn’t make it, we schedule a shorter appointment for the next day.  We don’t add an hour to “make up” or “catch up.”  We let the past go and move on.
  9. When we have fulfilled our commitment, we make sure we credit ourselves for doing so.  We have satisfied our obligation to ourselves, and the rest of the day is ours to do with as we wish.
  10. A word about content:  This may seem to be all about form, but the knowledge that we have satisfied our commitment to ourselves, the freedom from anxiety and resistance, the stilling of that hectoring voice inside us that used to yell at us that we weren’t writing enough—all this opens us up creatively.

Good luck!

Don Roos


Taken from Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham.

Advertisements