The Dolce Vita Lifestyle

Raeleen D'Agostino Mautner, Ph.D.

I wrote my first book over 20 years ago. When it was published, it seemed everywhere I went people were not only interested in discussing the contents of my book, but also wanted me to coach them on how to write THEIR book. One woman told me she had wanted to write a book for the past 10 years, and please would I tell her what the “secret” was.

NEWS FLASH: there is no secret; just as there is no secret to losing weight. If you want to write a book, ultimately it comes down to the old Nike logo of “Just Do It”.

Everyone who has written a book knows that writing courses can be insightful, writer’s groups may offer motivation and camaraderie, and books on “how to write” can lay out the basics, but if you spend TOO much of your time attending courses, reading books on writing, and going to writers groups, you are robbing yourself of the time you need to write the book itself. Or procrastinating. Furthermore, the whole notion of “writer’s block” is another method of stalling, as it is premised on the misbelief that you have to wait for inspiration to strike before you can write.

There is no “Muse” that is going to descend on you and tell you what to write. So stop waiting for one, get rid of all excuses and distractions and make a commitment to yourself to WRITE!

Becoming an author doesn’t require a degree in literature, stimulating as that might be. It comes from the very mundane task of being willing to work hard, set aside time EVERY DAY to sit in a chair, and focus on typing out what you have outlined or planned.

The psychology of motivation, tells us that when we “chunk” large tasks into mini tasks, and then record our progress on paper, we actually get somewhere. Why? We can track our progress every time we reach a “mini-goal”, and seeing what we have accomplished thus far, motivates us to take the next step.

We can apply this technique to writing a book and I will share with you, a method that some of the most renowned authors use (e.g. Daniel H. Pink): It is called The Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.

What does a tomato have to do with writing a book? Back in the late 80s when Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the technique, was in university, he always felt like no matter how hard he worked, he was not doing well with his studying. A big part of that was lack of focus, motivation, and too many distractions. Today we have even more distractions and for would-be authors, with publishers telling them to grow their presence on social media and build their “platform”, get out there and do some speaking, added to the daily tasks of oh, I don’t know, keeping your home in order, working a full or part time job, caring for pets, children or grandchildren, getting our exercise in and the other gazillion things that pop up in our mental “to-do” list every day—somehow our writing dreams just fade into the background until they dry up.

Don’t let YOUR dream of becoming an author dry up!

Maybe you just want to write a book to leave as legacy to your children, grandchildren and generations to come with no particular desire to publish beyond making a few copies at the local printer. Or, you may want to finally write that novel from an idea you have had inside you for years but never acted upon, or started but never finished. Maybe you have a special expertise that you want to share with others by writing self-help or how to book.

Whether you want to write fiction or non-fiction START HERE:

  1. Be willing to TAKE ACTION. Know that reaching any goal requires sacrifice.
  2. Describe your book idea on paper.
  3. Examine the structure of other books in the same genre in which you plan to write your book. Take note of the length, number of chapters, theme progression, etc.
  4. Create a loose outline. Jot down at least a couple of sentences in outline form of what each chapter will contain.
  5. Do your research (even if writing fiction).
  6. Commit to a fixed, non-negotiable time EACH DAY in which you WRITE.
  7. Use a timer to stay focused and avoid interruptions.

The Pomodoro Technique was named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo himself used to help him stay focused on his studying, and later on his professional work tasks. The technique helped him become successful in all areas of his life and has since helped many others. In a nutshell, here is an example of how it works, as applied to writing a book:

Goal: Writing a Book
Equipment: Kitchen Timer (shaped like a tomato or not); Paper, Pencil, and amount of time you will set aside EACH DAY for your task—in this case, of writing a book.
Time: Choose a non-negotiable block of time each day in which you will write.

  1. Choose the Task you will work on today: This task can be the outlining of your book, or the completion of 5-10 pages of a chapter, or doing the research needed for that chapter.
  2. Set your Timer (pomodoro or other kitchen timer or focus app) for 25 minutes.
  3. During this 25-minute time segment, block out all distractions. No Internet, no cellphone, no TV on in the background.
  4. Work straight through for 25 minutes, then when the timer rings put a check mark next to the title of that task (see below for example). Next comes a short break.
  5. Get up and stretch, walk around the house, get water, take a bathroom break, etc., for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Set the timer for another 25 minutes and get back to the task.
  7. Repeat the process. After each 25-minute segment, put another checkmark next to your task.
  8. After 4 pomodori (or checkmarks) take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. Go out for a walk, pop in an exercise video, prepare a salad, do whatever does not involve the task you are working on. This way you will clear your head and be able to get back to task until it is completed
  9. Set the Timer again in 25-minute segments and repeat the process until your task for that day is complete.

Make sure that you are realistic in setting your task(s) for the day. For example if you only have 1 hour a day to devote to writing, don’t set a goal of completing an entire chapter in that one hour. Self-motivation is about seeing yourself succeed at the mini tasks you set out. A bunch of completed sub-tasks will serve as reward and motivator to keep you going when you realize what you have already accomplished thus far.

General Example of The Pomodoro Technique as applied to writing a book:
Outline Book ✔✔✔✔ longer break ✔✔
Write Preface ✔✔✔✔ longer break ✔✔✔✔ longer break ✔✔✔
Research Chapter 1 ✔✔✔✔longer break✔

Now is the time. If you have always wanted to write a book, get going and share your creative insights and expertise by finally getting them on paper. You can do this, if you just take that first step and START!

References and Helpful Resources:
Cirillo, Francesco (2009, 2018) The Pomodoro Technique, LuLu & Currency Publishers)

Pomodoro Technique Website:

Recommended Writing Books:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

How to Write a Book: A Book for Anyone Who Has Never Written a Book (But Wants To) by Lauren Bingham

Get a “Pomodoro” Timer HERE
OR Get a pomodoro-like app for your smart phone (free):
• Pomodoro Focus Timer
• Focus Keeper-Time Management
• Pomodoro Timer
• Focus To-Do
• Focus Tomato

© Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D. 2023
How to pre-order my new book, 45 Ways to Live Like an Italian: Italian-Inspired Self Care Traditions for Everyday Happiness
Barnes and Noble:

2 thoughts on “How An Italian Tomato Can Help You Write Your Book

  1. kegarland says:

    Totally agree with this. I set my timer for a longer period, but the results are the same…writing gets accomplished, and essays/books get published.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it works for you, too! I also use this method to keep me motivated to finish non-writing tasks I’ve been procrastinating on.

      Liked by 1 person

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