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How a Tomato Can Change Your Life

Advanced tips for writers

The Humble Tomato

Did you know that tomatoes are one the most versatile ingredients out there? From sauces to flans to soups and from salsa to curry and yes, even harissa, the humble tomato is not only easy to grow (even for someone with un-green fingers like me) but it works in so many different dishes.

Tomatoes can change your life

Why am I telling you this? Because a tomato can change your life. (Bear with me!) Before I tell you how, I’ll let you in on a secret. I don’t speak Italian, but my sister-in-law is Italian and my brother’s family are multi-lingual. So I do know that when they see a sign for ‘filled paninis’ in a UK bakery (in normal times) it makes them shudder. Why? Because panini is already plural. Saying paninis is like saying ‘sandwicheses’. It would be more correct to advertise ‘panino’ – or a sandwich. What’s this got to do with writing I hear you ask? Keep reading!

Fancy Spaghetti Pomodoro?

You haven’t tasted tomatoes until you’ve eaten spaghetti pomodoro made with tomatoes grown on the side of Mount Vesuvius, which is what we did on our last overseas holiday. Now, on that same trip I did go into a pharmacy and say, with apologies to the Italian speakers out there, ‘my children have been scratched by cats’ instead of ‘my son has been scratched by a cat’. BUT I know that ‘pomodoro’ must be singular because I remember my brother cringing at that Anglicised word ‘paninis’. In pomodoro, the O must indicate ONE tomato otherwise I’d need to use pomodori, right?

You only need one tomato

Am I finally going to tell you what this has got to do with the writing process? Well, here’s the point. (Drum roll.) The Pomodoro Technique really can change your life. Take one kitchen timer – the original was shaped like a tomato, hence the name – time yourself for 25 minutes and avoid all distractions until the time is up, then take a break. You can find out more about the technique on the Pomodoro website – in fact you can learn the essentials in just a couple of minutes. You can even buy your own tomato-shaped kitchen timer. I’ve been through several. Think of one tomato like a mini block of time. Using this technique has helped me so much, I can truly say it’s changed my life.

Tomato + Number of Words

Here’s the bit of wisdom I’m bringing to the process: note down how many words you write in that time. Repeat the process as often as you can, again recording how many words you write. That way you begin to understand, using actual evidence, how much time your writing typically takes and therefore how long it will take you to write and redraft a particular project. Know what one tomato = in terms of words. OR know how many tomatoes usually takes you to get to 1000 words. Try writing for four Pomodoros (or should that be Pomodori?) and see what happens. Once you’re satisfied, stop recording the number of words, because it could drive you mad, unless you’ve decided to set a weekly or monthly word target.

Caprese refusal

By the way, on that same holiday in Naples, a waiter refused to let me order a caprese salad – tomatoes, mozerella, basil and olive oil – which I LOVE, because their tomatoes weren’t good enough quality. I hope he never visits the average UK supermarket. And he was right: during lockdown I’ve been longing for another holiday in that part of Italy, so I can taste tomatoes like that again – and eat the pizza and ice cream, obviously. But if you want one beautiful tomato, try the Pomodoro. You won’t regret it.

I’ve been writing a lot about planning in the last few posts because I’m creating a masterclass on planning your writing life for 2021, setting achievable goals, and how to quantify your writing – by time spent for example – without losing site of your values. There’s more about the masterclass here.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Louise xx

January 2021

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