Academia

On Writing: Lauren Graham’s advice on beating writer’s block

Some say it’s not Steinbeck’s best work but I’ll never get tired of teaching Of Mice and Men. This being my 6th time in 9 years, I’m still amused when my class cackle at Lennie’s fetish for soft things and I can barely conceal my pleasure at their gawping mouths as they unpack Steinbeck’s letter to Claire Luce. 

But the thing about exclusively teaching Key Stage 4 and 5 is that I’m rendered too brain-dead to read for pleasure. By the time I’m done preparing set texts, the last thing I want to do is read more; ironic considering I became an English teacher in order to enjoy literature.

I miss reading, and I bloody well miss writing. For me, both go hand in hand.

So I’ve decided to do something, and of course, to stop whining ‘I just don’t have time!’ when quite clearly I have plenty of time editing embarrassing videos for my Insta stories (if you know, you know). laurengrahambook

I’ve been wanting to read Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can since it was published because, well, if you don’t know this already about me there’s no better time to tell you than now, I am a huuuge Gilmore Girls fan. I watched reruns upon reruns of it on E4 and a decade later I continue to do so on Netflix. I’m also the kind of person who struggles to find people to look up to, you know? I’ve always been that way. As in, I’ve never felt a pressing need to read a particular celebrity’s autobiography or devour everything they feature in. There are only a handful of people women I feel this way about. Lauren Graham is one of them.

Bookstores out here in Doha don’t offer as wide a variety as the UK, and they’ve not even bothered to stock Lauren’s book (I know because I’ve been on the hunt for it since 2017). I finally succumbed and bought the eBook version. I don’t regret it at all. It was just as hilarious and engaging and brilliant as I’d hoped it would be. If anything, the chapter where Lauren shares her advice on how to write productively made me think, ‘This is fate.’

Lauren shares how, when filming the Gilmore Girls revival, she did everything else other than write! So she shares the method that worked for her: The Kitchen Timer Method. You can read more about it here.

Considering how over the past 18 months I’ve become a lot like Kirk when it comes to finishing work I started years ago, I decided I would at least give her method a shot. 

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Guys, my first attempt was painful.

I set 30 minutes on my phone timer (because I wasn’t brave enough to try an hour, plus it was a school night). I used pen and paper – I couldn’t handle looking at a screen anymore. It felt like pushing against a stone wall. My WIP document was full of scribbly spider diagrams and vague-ish bullet points on character development (what even is wurds? I asked myself, struggling to recall anything at all).

It was the journal document that I spent most time on and about 8 minutes in I was ready to fall asleep from the exhaustion of it all. At 13 minutes I suddenly became aware of how dependent I am on background noise and wondered if my next session should include some background noise (Lauren suggests whitenoise, not music, not TV, so that means no GG reruns for me). But, eventually, when the timer went off, I was mid-flow and rejuvenated. I didn’t want to stop writing. Both of my recent blog entries are proof of this – whatever it was about those 30 minutes, it worked. 

And so I have downloaded the Pomodoro tracking app (because the Kitchen Timer method is based on this) in the hope that I can apply the same method to lesson planning and other things I put off. The app has a selection of background noises to choose from which’ll hopefully help me focus next time. I’ll write a follow up soon of how this goes. Meanwhile, feel free to leave your tried and tested writing hacks in the comments below. Or, try this one and let me know how it works out for you. 🙂 

8 thoughts on “On Writing: Lauren Graham’s advice on beating writer’s block”

  1. was excited to see you post on this 🙂 I’ve tried pomodoro for doing thesis work, but not creative! I should try it, I also had my eye on Lauren grahams book! Hopefully I can get round to reading it sometime x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The book is hilarious! Loved it. What I like about the kitchen timer method is that she asks us to open 2 documents – rather than staring at a blank one for ages and feeling rubbish when the best idea you can come up with is something crappy like ‘And the trees had leaves. Big green leaves’ lollll it helped me get back in the swing of things but I have to be honest I do struggle without music or something on in the background. I feel like there are certain playlists that inspire me, or transport me into the world of a certain story so next time I’ll try with a playlist. And I need yooooouuu to blog more too missy! I feel like all my favourite bloggers have vanished! 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I often hear people making writing goals… and even though I love to write (actually, I think I like editing a bit more), I never have. I may have to do this once I start working on my dissertation, but that seems so far away. Are you working on a short story? Book? Something else? With the exception of short reflections for class, the only type of writing I do is blogging. I’m actually okay with blogging and don’t want to venture outside of it. I wrote a short story once. It is not good. I am not creative like that. Even the books I read are all non-fiction. Honestly, allowing myself to read and only write non-fiction has been so freeing! But I feel like I’m in the minority here. I hope this Kitchen Timer method bears fruit for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ll definitely need goals/deadlines to complete a dissertation- I miss those days! I’m not working on anything right now lolll I can just about spell my name. I realised today I’ve been marking the kids’ books and dating it ‘2019’, that’s how on the ball I am hahaha. I’m simply trying to get back into the swing of writing and then will see. I reaaaalllyy want to read more non fiction. Could you recommend some, maybe a variety of topics? I’m tired of fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL. You miss the days of writing a dissertation??? Really? All I know is how stressful it can be… but I’m mostly thinking about the financial stressors. I haven’t actually had a chance to write the year, but I’m sure I’d do the same! Actually, let me look at my journal and see what I’ve written. I just finished re-reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Before that was Stamped from the Beginning. I’m really drawn to the African American experience in the US. But one book I love and recommend to everyone is The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. I love reading history!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah the financial aspect of it is sooo stressful but the dissertation itself is so satisfying, especially once it’s done. I will make a note of all your recommendations and add to my reading list for this year 🙂 thank youuuuuu.

        Liked by 1 person

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