Writing with ADD
Updated: Apr 14
Sometime during the fifth grade, my teacher told my mother that she was concerned that I had an attention problem. Mom took me to a specialist where they diagnosed me with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I had no issues with hyperactivity, I just couldn't focus on one thing at a time. This was not a huge surprise, as there had been other signs.
To this day, I still struggle with party situations where multiple conversations are happening at once, because I hear each one. I have to consciously focus intently on the conversation I'm in or I'll accidentally start paying more attention to another conversation, which I've been told is rude (ha!).
In Middle School and High School, I was on and off ADD medication, but during my senior year, I decided that the side effects of the meds were greater than their benefit, and I stopped taking them. Since then, I've learned what works for me and my productivity. I make lists and carry them around with me during the day, so I remember what I'm supposed to do that day. I try to block out small chunks of focused time to get a task accomplished, instead of just blindly attacking the project. It's not always a perfect system, but a little chaos is good for the soul.
A few years ago, a friend showed me the Pomodoro technique. It involves a set period of time (I believe it is twenty-five minutes) where you focus on one task and chip away at it, whether it be those dishes you have been putting off, writing your first chapter of a novel, or an Excel spreadsheet for work. Immediately following those twenty-five minutes, you take a five minute break--make a cup of coffee (or tea if you're like me), let your mind wander, walk around and stretch, etc.
I've altered this technique into shorter periods of time, usually about ten or fifteen minutes. My brain doesn't like staying one track for too long, so after my timer goes off, I go do something else.
I had never thought to apply this to my writing, though it seems obvious in hindsight. One of my good friends/workshop partners introduced me to writing sprints during Camp Nano (Thanks Watkins!). Camp Nano even has a place for you to do it with friends when camp is in session. We did a few together and I was actually putting words on the screen! Progress!
I'm was impressed with how much
it changed my writing productivity.
Though my left brain is always cooking up stories in my head, when it comes to executing, I am often distracted and find it hard to focus because of my attention disorder. Another major factor that holds me back is that I get overwhelmed thinking about the work required to carve this story out from my mind. This anxiety results in procrastinating and over editing my first draft before it is done. I worry way too much about how the first draft looks that I don't move forward. This is coming from the person who had two gorgeous pages of notes for a college class, but didn't finish reading the section because they spent all their time making those two beautiful pages of notes. I let great be the enemy of good.
With ten minutes of writing, I don't have to worry about the next scene, the next chapter, the next book. I don't have time to edit what I've already written--a wise man once said there is a time for everything and a season for every activity. Editing can wait until the story exists. When I only have ten minutes to write, I don't worry about perfect dialogue or if a scene has too much or too little description. I write for ten minutes and then I move on to something else.
If anyone has issues with their attention or have anxiety and fears that hold you back, I would definitely recommend taking life ten or twenty minutes at a time. It has helped me to shut out the noise of the world for a little bit so I can do what I need and want to do.
Let me know of any tips or tricks you have for tackling these and other types of hindrances and be sure to subscribe to the website so we can keep in touch!