Wandering Minds: Tips for ADD/ADHD Writers

Writing and ADD/ADHD can be a contradiction in terms. I mean, sitting still? For hours? Luckily, I’m older and it comes a little easier. Or not. I still spend waste a good bit of time in wandering through my house. No mean feat when it’s a smaller place. When I’m not doing that, I’m giving into urges to do laundry, or looking for my pencil or that piece of paper THAT WAS RIGHT F**KING there two seconds ago and which has now fallen into a black pit of nothingness, never to be seen again.

So, here’s some tips I use to stay focused and actually meet writing goals instead of organizing your shelves for the twentieth time. (I put visuals after the bullets)

  • Work with your mind, not against it. This may seem contradictory to my later bullet points, but trying to force your mind in a linear track leaves you staring at a blank sheet of paper, or even an empty traditional outline. The end result being that you spend the whole day doing nothing because your brain hasn’t been hooked, or is intimidated by linear ways of doing things. (Disclosure: I don’t embrace drugs for ADD/ADHD, whatsoever.) I tried to force my mind into outlining my books traditionally, because one of my first manuscripts was awful. My mind kept throwing up “I-don’t-get-it” roadblocks. So I created my own system. For short stories, I outline with a pencil/pen and a sheet of paper. I write something that resembles a spider web made by a drunk spider. Connecting arrows, text going every which way, circled bits, underlined, and sometimes highlighters. Then I write it all out by hand. Then I type it into the computer and format it. Then I print it out and edit it again. And again. I don’t use a file cabinet (out of sight is an irretrievable event horizon); instead I put my research materials and other information in labeled and color-coded folders and line them up on a bookshelf. Easy access, and I don’t “forget” that I have that writerly resource. For book-length manuscripts, I use the same freeform outline method to brainstorm. Then I use Duolit’s character profile sheets and Creative Writing Now’s scene outlines to keep myself on track.
  • Create transition periods. When I switch from my morning online work to my writing desk, I have little transitioning rituals. Like doing the breakfast dishes, and/or organizing my desk and reviewing my schedule and submission deadlines. Even if I know what I have to work on, I still take some time out to lay out all my projects. I then light a candle and put on some background music–generally something classical. If it has words, it’s distracting, while film scores from movies like Harry Potter or video game scores like Myst create an atmospheric mood that’s great for writing.
  • Close doors. Even if it’s metaphorical (I don’t have any closed doors), closing the door can help you feel like you are entering into a private writing sanctum. I pull down the blinds at my writing desk to help me feel like I’ve moved into a little haven from the outside world. If I don’t, my mind seizes on something external I see in the outside world and hangs onto it a way to distract itself from writing. 
  • On schedules and timers. I have a timer. I forget to use it about half the time. And it’s too jarring when it goes off and breaks my concentration. I make schedules and barely look at them, but I keep making them. Why? The process of making them helps root it in my brain. It crosses over into the transitioning trick. I review them and it acts as a checkpoint or assessment. It tells me “What did you remember to do today, on your own?” and what I need help to keep from forgetting. To-do lists are great. When my work sessions end, I review the to-do sheets and cross things off. I also have a big desk calendar so that I can look at submission deadlines for the whole month, in one viewing, and I don’t panic when I realize it’s the day before twenty stories are due. I still had some crashing and burning with this, as I somehow thought I could do twenty stories in one day. It’s like my mind can’t compute length of time very well when it comes to submission deadlines. So I printed out a smaller calendar and assigned myself one story (or article/article pitch per day). So by the end of the deadline, I would at least have most of the stories done, rather than hardly any. I also gave in and used a submission tracker I made in MS Word, because, of course, I was lying when I told myself “Oh, I’ll remember it all in my head.” (humour alert) And I use a Hallmark Datebook to record my social media posts, mainly because it has the birth flower and the birthstone for each month. Don’t know why it helps, but it does.
  • Location, location, location. Change it up! I don’t usually leave my house to write, as it requires time, money, effort, and having to be around people, but I do switch rooms/locations in the house when I get that antsy or dead-head feeling. 
  • Snacks! I had this tendency of mine supported by a NaNoWriMo category, but I get the munchies bad when I write. Bagels with schmear, black olives with spreadable cheese, apples and cheese, chips and sour cream dill dip–you get the picture. On another note, they double as rewards. 
  • Reward system! Snacks (try to have healthy ones, not a whole box of cookies in one sitting), brew another cup of tea, flavoured water, afternoon cup of coffee to get you through the slump, or change up your work day by interspersing it with something more active but not totally time consuming. Laundry’s a safe bet. I also used this Facebook-based game, YoWorld, as a motivator to do computer work, but they’ve added so many fun side quests, challenges, and other in-game tasks that it doesn’t work very well as a background mind stimulator–it’s a full-time job in itself! I’m welcome to suggestions for a replacement option–please share in the comments!

On that note, it’s over to you. How do you balance ADD/ADHD, different learning styles, or a busy schedule/day job, with writing? Please share in the comments.

(Oh, by the way, I also offer ADD/ADHD coaching. You know, in case anyone is interested…and I have plenty of sparkly distractions to offer too!)

Outline.JPG
An outline, or a cryptic communication from another dimension?
DailySchedule.JPG
Even more thrilling! My daily schedule and to-do list. (MS Word/Publisher)
BigCalendar
Submission Deadline Calendar # 435 1!
WeeCalendar
Submission Schedule Calendar
SubmissionTracker
Yearly Submission Tracker Notebook (Yes, it’s sparkly silver! And has colour-coded tabs for each month!)

 

Letter to a Literary Muse

Letter to a Literary Muse

Your time is spent nurturing your fans, and I am preoccupied with once and future worlds. I am never in sync, but I see you in each parallel; we touch and go on our way. Constantly inconstant forces in each other’s lives.

But I, unlike you, have never been anytime; born in a thistle maze, kept captive in a briar patch, wandered worlds only in my head, where I dream dreams in Mobius strips: nightmares and fears; misplaced intentions and missed chances; a thousand thousand deaths, countless lost and founds.

This night, I dreamt in Celtic lore, both modern and past, simultaneously; my mind’s eye’s mirror reflection; dark red hair in cascades, hunter-green dress, among glass and metal and life-in-a-pod on a strange new world. There is no prickly nest to trap me; to hide me in thorny safety. I am exposed. Alone.

You. You see me. Not a mirror reflection. No haint from a past world. This is the future. Our future. You gently work a twig from my hair, and hold it for an eternity while our worlds dream themselves together.

 

The Stories They Tell…

Who knew posting dream homes of the day on Facebook would have been so…controversial? *laugh*

But at least it helped me determine what social media venues I prefer.

Here’s the thing, though: I still love old things. Vintage. Historic. Derelict. Abandoned. Lost and then found objects.

I believe in historic preservation, for many different reasons, and not just because of my personal aesthetic preference. 

Mainly because for each “brand-new house” with open floor plans, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances, that’s even more wild, undeveloped nature that’s lost. And we’re running out of space for animals and trees. I’ve seen this firsthand in Florida’s insane push for development, aided and abetted by questionably ethical local politicians.

I love the email newsletters I get from sites like Old House Dreams (they have an Old House Overseas as well) and Circa Houses.

 

So, in the spirit of historic preservation, here’s a writing prompt for today: Find an abandoned or older home in your neighbourhood and tell its story.

Feel free to share your flash fiction story (or a link to your short story) below! Or share your own art.

Inspiration by way of Manman Brigitte

 

Among the tools I draw on for creative inspiration is tarot cards. The skeptic in me doesn’t believe in fortune-telling; instead, I use them for guidance when I’m feeling a little lost or am in transition.

Today I drew the card of Manman Brigitte from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot. (You can purchase it via that link, if you’re interested in the deck.).

Since the book and deck is copyrighted, I’ll refrain from including detailed descriptions from the tarot deck’s book, but it does allude to her being an advocate of change.

According to the Maman Brigitte entry on Readers & Rootworkers website, she acts as both healer and judge, and is linked with Brigid in Celtic mythology (or St. Brigid, depending on your viewpoint).

Wikipedia has more about her link with Brigid: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maman_Brigitte

Justice, retribution, healing, transition–plenty of writerly inspiration to be found in any of these areas. Especially if you, like me, write in one of the speculative fiction genres.

This morning I spent retiring my Facebook page from my social media collection. Because, you know, Facebook, although I also had other reasons for doing so.

I hope you have a productive writing day!

Wee Quiz: Facebook, Yay or Nay?

 

 

Nature’s Army

(Inspired by my own writing prompt I posted on Twitter, et al, today)

This past decade has been quite the journey for me as an unemployed worker  graduate student historian admin assistant temp gas station attendant substitute teacher and eternal job seeker.

It was only in the past year that I really set aside time to dedicate to writing.

What surprised me was how quiet the process was. I’m used to living in a state of chaos. Neither one thing or another. Always fiercely banging against things, trying to prove I could fit in. “Notice me!” my efforts would scream. “I’m a hard worker.” Trying to conform to hold down jobs I hated.

I was a real-life Don Quixote, tilting at society’s windmills.

I wouldn’t say I was clueless about who I was–I just had to ignore it. Hide it away. Because it wasn’t relevant, hireable, marketable, socially acceptable, important, and, therefore, had zero worth to the world. Or so I had been taught to believe, from a very young age.

Like I said, the process of writing is quiet. The development of a writer, or any artist/creative soul, cannot be forced. It has to grow on its own. It was hard to let go. To relax. But then I had expended years of energy and had nothing to show for it.

I had to push my way up from the morass to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be. I shed growth when it no longer fit. Dropping leaves that had been grafted onto me. (The drive for money being one of them–proof positive I wasn’t a failure.) It was scary to let go. It still is.

I suddenly realized, though, that if I was going to do it, I couldn’t do it inauthentically. Writing is demanding; it won’t let you be what you’re not. You can’t grow against the grain. At the same time, you have to write to write. Write where the topic (and submission guidelines!) takes you.

I stopped trying to be all things. One of the lessons passed down in workshops, articles, blogs was “find your niche.”

This was probably the hardest. I’d never been allowed; subsequently, never allowed myself, to have a niche based on my actual self.

“Who am I,” I asked myself.

The winds started howling from deep within. I shivered a deep bone chill when I realized I had no idea. I had had my existence wiped. I had been reprogrammed.

So, I had to dig deep. Dig through a frightening past, risk getting lost in nebulous dimensions, all to excavate a handful of fractured remembrances.

It’s still going on. Slowly. Quietly. And my self is still fractured. But I’m rebuilding. Even if people still want to classify me by their negative terms.

But here’s some discoveries.

Writer.

Artist.

A sensitive soul.

A creative mind.

Someone who played the violin.

Who likes classical music. Atmospheric music, without words.

Drawn to what’s now classified as speculative: horror, fantasy, science fiction.

I write these things.

The spooky.

The unreal.

The mystic.

A world of make-believe.

The impossibly possible.

So, if you made it this far, what does that have to do with the title of the blog, “Nature’s Army”?

Because I also love nature. Trees. Plants. Insects.

And that’s the stuff of nightmares dreams.

Working its tangled way into my stories.

Building a fictive world where nature has agency.

Where nature wins.

[See my 66-word story (and others!) in Speculative 66’s Issue 20, on April 6th. https://speculative66.weebly.com/ ]

 

Now it’s your turn to “tilt at windmills”. How has writing/creative ventures helped you develop your sense of self?