Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Confessions of an ADD Writer—How I Turned my Struggle into Success

by Edie Melson

Writing is the best and the worst career choice for me. I used to joke about the fact that if it wasn’t illegal or immoral, I’d write about it. A very true statement. You see, I’m definitely an Attention Deficit Disorder Writer. Today I want to share how I turned my struggle into success.

Freelance writing and blogging is a good fit for me, in that it gives me lots of varying subject matter. It also gives me the opportunity to work in small bites and find success with short pieces. But even working with small projects I had to find a way to manage my time and not get distracted.


Book length projects are more of a struggle. I’ve had to learn how to apply my work habits for short projects to the long ones, and instead of being a liability, it’s helped me become a more productive writer.

Here are the things that help me—not just to cope—but to excel as a writer:

1. Embrace my creativity. One of the things that happens with my mind is that it’s always coming up with new ideas. Instead of shutting out these ideas, I keep a list. Now, I never lack for a blog post topic or article idea.

2. Work in small bites of time. I get twitchy if I have to sit still for more than an hour, so I plan my day in hour-long blocks of time.

3. Don’t stress about working on more than one project at once. There is lots of advice out there about only working on one thing at a time. The problem isn’t on how many things I work on at once—AS LONG AS I’m finishing projects regularly. The problem comes if I only start things and never finish them.

4. Write through the rabbit trails. In high school and college I learned how to write papers and articles by coming up with a theme sentence and focusing on that through-out the paper. That’s good advice, for the final draft. But the rough draft is supposed to be…well…rough. That’s the time to experiment and try things out. I’ve come up with some really good stuff by following a rabbit trail to its end. Often I come up with two or three good things. Good for a freelance writer.

5. Let your boredom be a barometer. Often when I get bored with a project it’s a symptom of a problem—and not with me. It means I’ve lost focus or need to add something to what I’ve written.  I’ve discovered I’ve got pretty good instincts and I’ve learned to trust them.

6. Freewriting is my friend. Sometimes my mind is spinning with so many ideas I don’t know where to start. That’s when I pull out the pen and paper and start writing. No rules, just words. In very short order my brain has pulled some order out of chaos and I’m ready to get to work.

7. Keep track of time and set limits. I could research for hours. Every fact seems to lead to another, and then to another and then…well you get the idea. I give myself a time limit for research and that helps limit the distractions.


8. Keep research and writing separate. When I’m done with my allotted research time, I start writing. If I come across something I need to check, I make a note, but I don’t stop writing. Otherwise it’s hard to get things finished.

These are the things I've found to help me succeed. What could you add to the list? Or am I the only easily-distracted writer around?

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

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20 comments:

  1. Very helpful advice! I have several projects sitting around in pieces and sometimes I get frustrated wondering if I should just stop and work on one until it is finished, but I don't want the others to get stale. Thanks so much.

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    1. Barbara, embrace what others see as chaos! As long as things are getting done, don't stress. Blessings, E

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  2. I needed this. Although I've never been diagnosed with ADD, I can see a few of the symptoms within me, especially when it comes to writing. I want to write a longer novel, but I easily loose interest and focus. These tips are extremely useful - something I can begin to put into place right away.

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    1. Joan, these tips have helped me finish six book-length projects. Don't despair, I know you have a novel in you! Blessings, E

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  3. I does help to know I am not alone in my distraction. Sometimes it is hard to stay on task, but I work best with structure. I have also learned to keep a list, since ideas tend to pop into my mind as I'm working on other things. My greatest distraction is sunshine, but that's another subject...

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    1. Betty, you're so right. I felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders when I realized I wasn't crazy or disorganized. Some of us work differently, and God made us that way. When we work to our strengths that's when we'll find success. Blessings, E

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  4. Thanks from another ADD writer. Great advice.

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    1. Judythe, there are more out there than you may think! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  5. Add the H to ADD and you'd have me. I get so twitchy unless I'm completely absorbed by what I write. And research...the timer is a good suggestion I will incorporate. Great post, Edie.

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    1. Pat, thanks so much for dropping in! Blessings, E

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  6. I'm absolutely the same! I lost the extra H (ADHD) as I got older, but I'm definitely ADD. And I realized #5 a while ago. When I'm bored or stuck, I know i'm on the wrong path. So I try something new and it usually works. It's been hiding behind a stubborn grasp on what I was doing. When I let that go, then I find a better path.

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    1. Ane, it really helps to know our instincts are spot on. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! Blessings, E

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  7. When my friends ask me why I don't get a motorcycle, I tell them that it's because I'm too distracted by shiny object. It would be a disaster. Ditto the writing. I really have to shut out the world. Tough to do with the internet screaming for attention. I like to play Christian instrumental music (thank you Pandora) and close myself off from the rest of the house. Otherwise, there's always something to do. At least my writing distractions won't result in my mangled corpse along I-75. Thanks for the post, Edie.

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    1. Ron, I love Pandora, too. I have different channels set up for different types of scenes. Blessings, Edie

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  8. I have to admit that I have pretty bad ADHD. I'm just beginning my writing career, so I'm going to have to learn the dos and don'ts of trying to write while your attention is going 100 miles an hour. I did however write an article of time management on my own blog. It's possible, we just have to know what to do!

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  9. Thank you.

    I finally understand why I never finish any of my "great" ideas. I love wandering the internet in search of inspiration and I have started hundreds of great stories. But when I followup with the final research for the details and references I always discover a hundred new inspirations that send me off in a hundred new directions. The original momentum is lost and another unfinished project is shelved.

    Perhaps not every piece of writing has to become a book. And maybe I need to finish the writing BEFORE I look to the internet to confirm the technical details and references.

    Instead of writing in enormous bursts of energy until I am empty, I will now try to "chunk" it into smaller units and pace myself to sustain my passion for the current theme.

    ADD seems to explain so much of my past life path now that I think about it.

    Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

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  10. I"m ADD and Dyslexic (albeit slightly-it shows up in my proofreading) and I love this post. Many thanks for turning the face of an affliction into an asset. Learning to listen to my inner restless self, I can usually know when I am bored, likely boring my reader, too. The dyslexia, and the hurry up and wait aspects of my attention span are harder for me to wrangle, but I am working on them. Posts like this help.

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  11. I think you are related to me lol! Nice post very helpful.

    http://www.seanocarolan.com

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  12. Excellent advice and tips! The thing that I've found most helpful as an ADHD writer is establishing a morning routine: get up, go for a run, sit down & write (while my Rx is still fresh)... If I try to do the writing without the run, I'm too... well, hyper.

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  13. Very helpful post for online writing tutors as well as writers. You raised few good points here for us.

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