Help For The ADD Writer

Posted March 10, 2014 by kcklein in Help for writers, Hotter On The Edge / 1 Comment

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About a year ago my eldest child was diagnosed with ADD without the hyperactivity component. For my daughter medication was the right choice. This was a huge life changing occurrence for my family. We went from tears and tantrums about school and homework to “it’s all done” by the time my husband came home from work.

Even though the medication has been a blessing for her, it is not a cure all. She still struggles, and we as a family have learned to adjust to her learning style. As I did more and more research on the subject, I realized that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. I’ve never sought a professional diagnosis, but even so, many of the symptoms of ADD reflected my writing habits. This isn’t a surprise. Almost 65% of kids with ADD experience difficulty with writing. People with ADD often have creative ideas, but find it hard to get the ideas out of their heads and onto the paper.

  • They have trouble starting and trouble with following through.
  • They have trouble holding the ideas in their minds and then organizing them into a sequence.

Does this describe someone you know or perhaps yourself? It did me. Here are some practical tips I got off the website and ways that I applied them to my writing career.

Give yourself enough time: I consistently underestimate how long a project will take me. Because of this I always find myself under deadline and stressed which really impedes my creativity. The more under pressure I am, the more “deer in headlights” I become, and the less I produce. I’ve had some success in looking ahead in my week and planning exactly how many pages I need to get done to reach my goal. Since every week and everyday can be different, I allow a lot of flexibility. On my focused writing days, I now try to start with some quiet moments in the morning to center myself, and then I write down a list of everything I want to accomplish in that day.

Prioritize: It’s important to prioritize.  Many adults with ADD/ADHD spend so much time on one task—known as “hyperfocusing”—that nothing else gets done. This was so me. My whole life would go to hell around me as I focused on this one task. I had to get the task done even if I knew it wasn’t the most important thing on my list. Now, I try to ask myself what’s the most important thing and then I order the items 1,2,3 and so on. Take one thing at a time. Try to break down a big project into smaller easier to-do tasks. Then stay on task by using a timer if you need to help keeping on schedule.

Use a timer: This is the single most effective tool that I’ve come across. My whole family uses them from getting out the door on time, to the kids daily reading. Adults with attention deficit disorder often have a different perception of how time passes. Adults with ADD/ADHD are notoriously bad at estimating how long it will take to do something. To align your sense of time with everyone else, become a clock watcher. Figure out how long it takes you to do a certain task, especially one that needs to be done again and again and WRITE IT DOWN. For instance, I always think a blog post will take me around thirty minutes when in reality it takes me closer to four to six hours.

Learn to say no: As a writer I constantly find myself saying yes to yahoo groups, projects, blog hops, and proposals with no clear idea how I am going to get everything done. But consistently running with a jammed-packed schedule can seriously choke your creative voice. Before making any commitment learn to say you have to check your schedule first. This is a great habit to get into especially when after a bit of reflection you realize that this particular project may not be what you want to spend your limited time and energy on.

Write a “Fast Draft”: Since writers with ADD often cannot hold their ideas in their mind for very long they may benefit from doing a fast draft which is an even rougher version than a rough draft. A fast draft is just writing a huge amount of words (around twenty pages or so) in a short amount of time. The trick is to turn off the internal editor so that you can write as fast as you need in order to keep up with where your mind is taking the story. Capture the rough essence of the story and then correct and edit later.

Organize Organize Organize: Writers with ADD have trouble organizing their thoughts in easy relatable groups. It is easy to jump from one scene to another in your mind, but it can be very difficult to keep things organized in a huge word document. Poster boards with sticky notes have helped me and also a new program called Scrivner where I can set up each of my chapters with a topic sentence and even a note card on a cork board if I want to see the whole story laid out for me. This enables me to jump from scene to scene and quickly add a change or thread that I wrote near the end of the story to the beginning chapters.

Eat right: Easier said than done. It seems nothing helps me out of temporary writers block better than a handful of M&M’s or a piece of dark chocolate. The problem comes in when my sugar crashes, and again I am reaching for that next fix. I do find that my mental energy is more consistent throughout the day if I avoid sugar, eat smaller meals, and fewer carbohydrates, while increasing my vegetable and fruit intake. I also do so much better when I make fresh vegetable juice from my juicer on a daily basis, but that is a whole other blog post.

Conclusion: So has any of this helped me? I still struggle, some days worse than others. Right now my writing is really suffering, and I can’t figure out if it’s from my ADD or just a good old common writer’s slump. Just re-reading this post has helped though. I think it’s time to get back to basics and again apply some of the strategies I know work. There is no easy fix, but having a productive day is one of the best feelings.



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