The Humble Kitchen-Timer: An Underappreciated Writer’s Friend

Writers often complain about how it’s impossible to organize our writing time because we’re always distracted by other things. Very often those other things revolve around computer screens, smartphones, iPads etc. We know we *can* turn off the computer (or at least the Internet connection), but we don’t *want* to. We can even download software that temporarily disables our Internet connectivity for a time so we can focus on writing.

I usually don’t worry too much about any of that stuff when I write. I seem to have two binary modes of writing: I’m either at the computer with the Internet on, or not at the computer at all. Often I’m at the computer when I’m revising, but sitting in a library or coffee shop with a notepad when I’m writing a first draft.

Be that as it may, how many of you have also heard the advice to turn everything off, use a kitchen timer (i.e. not a smartphone timer or iPod timer) and find 10, 20, 30 minutes in a day to sit quietly and write?

Well, last week I finally bought myself a GOOD OLD-FASHIONED KITCHEN TIMER exactly for this purpose (see picture!) Actually, I bought two because the first one didn’t work and Amazon was kind enough to send a replacement.

Did I think I would use the thing?

Not really – just seemed like a cute idea at the time.

BUT then I did use it for writing by myself and with friends. Having a good old-fashioned mechanical, and happy-looking owl watch over (and time) my writing, somehow seemed to create a different feeling for me. Sitting with my owl is somehow a happier and more grass-rootsy experience than sitting with technology.

But that’s not all!

A friend recently suggested that these timers are good for other things we might face in the writing life: for example, REJECTION.

We all face it and it’s horrible. Processing a rejection (particularly if accompanied by suggestions about everything you’re doing wrong with your work) is hard work in itself. The suggestions and comments are usually constructive, or at least intended to be constructive, but there’s no way your ego won’t be a tiny bit bruised at least the first time you read or listen to them.

So my friend suggested using the timer to process the negative emotion attached to rejection. Set the timer and give yourself 10, 20, 30 minutes (an hour, two – whatever it takes) just to let yourself process those nasty bad feelings, and then, when the bell rings, move on.

This is my new mantra. Those negative feelings aren’t bad or wrong. They do need to be processed, but you can’t give them free rein. A timer can help you out with that, and if you have a nice friendly-looking timer like my little owl, so much the better.

Maybe I’m getting jaded by our technological, always switched-on, digital world, a world in which feelings have to be processed in six seconds or less so we can move on to the next important thing, and in which instant gratification is more important than laying the foundations for long term creation. (Ugh, I seem to be up on a soapbox now.) But don’t shortchange the humble kitchen timer as a writer’s friend. Keep one in your glove box or your carry bag so you always have it with you should the urge take you to jot down some thoughts or to process a negative emotion. I’m partial to owls for some reason, but find one that you like and consider adopting him, her or it as a little writing buddy. The idea may not be as silly as it sounds!