Behind The Book: Writing with ADHD
LOL @ those pictures. That’s me all day. So I have ADHD (mostly inattentive) and can’t take a stimulant because I am also bipolar. So, I take Wellbutrin which helps…a little. I had the most success with an ADHD coach - you can find reputable ones on ADDA’s website. They also have webinars and group sessions.
My biggest tip is to work with your body’s rhythm. If you are tired during the day, work/write at night. A lot of us with ADHD are night owls. I am just not functional in the AM, and I need a nap around 12 or 1PM. My most productive hours are 10PM onwards, and if I’m not careful I’ll have stayed up the entire night 😬
Thank you so much for these tips!!
Worth 10 years of subscriptions just to have this to read and share with others. Thank you!
Ijeoma! I am devouring this newsletter. Every installment is a pleasure, super relatable, and valuable. Keep em coming.
I second the tip to ride the hyperfocus train! Actually made that work for me tonight with a writing project with an "undefined deadline"- the worst!
I'm in my early 30s and in the process of getting my ADHD diagnosis and just started medication- it's a relief and I'm beginning to explore strategies that are most helpful, now that I understand my brain better. I think another tip is grace for yourself- some days are going to be more productive and others. For years I've felt guilty that I haven't written more because I know I can, if I can just choose which of the 10 trains I want to write about haha It's really affirming Ijeoma to have you put into words experiences I've been struggling with.
PS- Your description of the right type of background music is spot on for me!
Two things that help me. The first is if I can schedule time with another person to both work. Being in a room or on a call with another person also engaged makes it easier. Second, I give myself a small amount I must complete (truly tiny, like a sentence or just work for 5 minutes) and then I can see how I feel. That helps if I'm feeling overwhelm paralysis where it looks too big.
Whoa. It’s great to hear that a fellow local writer I admire is also one with ADD like me! I definitely share some of these tips- Pomodoro method (which I shared with an ADD friend recently and he’s been taking off with it too), a playlist with driving music that’s familiar but not too distracting on noise cancelling headphones, write ideas in my Evernote. I also picked up getting a Pomodoro timer (it’s color-coordinated so you can see a visual representation of how much time you have left… a dream tool), doing my boring but small cleaning tasks during my break to get back in my body, putting my phone on airplane mode or “Do Not Disturb” when I write (I have my notifications on silent almost all of the time unless I’m waiting for a specific call because it’s way too distracting, no watch here!), writing imperfectly non-stop without going into edit mode, and writing out my schedule two days out on a whiteboard so it’s always right in front of me to help me stay on task (which I adjust in real time with a different color marker to stay a little flexible about it). I also wrote to my editor to tell her about my neurodivergence and how it’s related to my struggle with deadlines and she’s been very gracious about it. Love this tip about having a writing-adjacent task to switch to! I’ll definitely add that in. Thanks, Ijeoma!
My daughter shared your post on Facebook and tagged me. I'm glad I'm here now and have found your site. Thanks so much for the pointing out the positive aspects of our multi-talented brains. I read your whole blog post and only allowed myself to be distracted long enough to copy and paste "Pomodoros" in a new window so I can check out that rabbit hole (hmmmm.... what you call trains of thought I think of as rabbit holes and ... Muzack. Thoughts of my loved ones are almost always running in my mind's Muzack.) Off now to read about pomodoros.
This is great! Thanks for sharing. So much lava around my desk too! These are things I've worked on over the past year in grad school writing. 1) I thrive with to do lists, so outlining is big for me. The outline becomes the to do list. 2) For some things, especially complex logical arguments, I'm better at making bullet points of all the ideas first before I can make it into flowy sentences. I just have to say the thing in the simplest way possible first otherwise i get lost in a jumble of words. 3) Separating out the "thinking" parts of the writing process and the "chore" ones allows me different mental and environmental space and habits. When writing the meat of something or developing the conceptual model I can't have background distractions and need to be very engaged. But if I'm updating the citations or formatting, then I need to watch TV in the background or remind myself that this is the boring "chore" part and needs a different mental energy.
I don't have ADD, but I do find it difficult to write. I appreciate you sharing tips for writing. Thank you!
This is so affirming, thank you so much! I was just diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year at 39, and it was a mindhole blower. My ADHD tip is to break writing tasks down into small chunks (brainstorm about X, fix first paragraph) and use rainbowy felt tip pens to cross them off when done for maximum dopamine. I write for a living (grants) but really long to write a book of my own. I do well with writing for my job (grants have built in deadline motivation, and I use pomodoros and mynoise.net for amazing white noise) but my problem is finding time and motivation to write for pleasure/personal projects. I keep thinking I'll figure it out "later" and... later never comes. Personal writing isn't how the bills get paid/"required," so it never makes it to the top of the list. I'm scared I'll leave the planet without finding a way to share what I have inside. But I love that you find ways past your own internal barriers, and it's so inspiring to learn someone I admire so much is neurodivergent in the way I am!
Boy is that hyperfocus with background music sweet. Pair it with some fresh gummi bears (which are extra chewy and soft) and watch the magic happen…
Then spend two weeks thinking your idea is shit and this will never come together and why did I bother with the subject and who is actually going to read this… Then turn out a decent work.
These are great tips and I love picking up little pointers along the way. Feels like you don’t have to think of it all. Other people have figured at least one thing out!
I'm an editor (and occasional writer) and was just diagnosed with AD(H)D in my 30s! I'm not outwardly hyperactive, but also have multiple scripts/trains running through my head at all times, so I consider that to be how the hyperactivity's manifested for me—internal, rather than external.
I struggle to get pomodoros to work for me (and I *love* mobile check deposits because I will never, ever go to the bank), but the rest of this resonates so, so much! Thanks for sharing your tips and experience. :)
I appreciate this so much! I have ADHD, diagnosed as an adult, and it was all good when I was a teacher, but really tough for the self-structured master's thesis I just finished (after multiple extensions:/). As a teacher, there's a bell schedule and shared grading deadlines, so deadlines are less hateful (I'm in NZ so only recently did we really leave the classroom, but are now back). And 120-150 teenagers a day? NEVER a dull moment, so the need for varied stimulation is met, and there are a lot of opportunities to be creative. The downside is it can be an overwhelming and tiring stretch of executive function.
Thesis writing - either hyperfocus (literally stepped on broken glass with a bare foot and looked at it and asked myself if it was bad enough to move my concentration away from the writing), OR 10-second-focus: 'wtf was I just doing? Why did I get up from my desk again? Where is that pencil/pen/wallet/brain I literally just had?' By the end of it I had a toolbox of strategies as none of them worked consistently. Pomodoro was great, on and off, and an accountability buddy over zoom was awesome when it was someone in a similar state of progress/distress. I'd have zoom on my phone on mute and work on my laptop - just having someone there working too was really great. I'd colour-code lists with scented highlighters (because it is more fun) and realised I really needed to use physical paper literally taped to a wall in front of me instead of electronic organisers. Taking breaks BEFORE I get frustrated/overwhelmed/overstimulated is better than not. Not judging myself for taking much, much more time than others is something I continue to work at.... I feel like there are 100 strategies I've been using but they've become unconscious processes. We're interest-based, so I guess trying to find something interesting in what we have to get done is really key.
Anyway, looking forward to more newsletters, and thank you so much for sharing that you have been managing with ADHD!!
Oh wow. thank you for writing this. It's the encouragement i needed this week.
OMG. I feel so seen. I was just laying awake in bed realizing the checks i need to cash. Invoices I need to make. Also, that one at the museum where I wrote something for an art exhibit and there is long protracted paperwork online and I can never get through it. Oh and there's my mother's passing, I haven't even started to go through her finances. Thank you for writing this. I know i have ADHD but it hadn't occurred to me that this part might be connected. xo