Some tips for when you’re writing with ADD
Writing is a struggle in an of itself, but even more so when you have ADD. It doesn’t have to be all bad though. There are some things you can do to help yourself.
Working with and around my ADD
So when it comes to my writing there are some things I need to do differently. Of course, that goes for almost anyone. Writing tips aren’t as universal as people make them out to be and you don’t need to write daily to be a successful writer either. It’s just not realistic for all of us, and that doesn’t mean we can’t be successful writers.
How it is for me is, when I get a story idea, I write that down as soon as possible. Whatever it is, a scene, a character, a setting, a plot idea, anything. Like many other writers, I have a folder on my computer filled with enough material to fill three lifetimes worth of writing. I don’t go seeking these ideas, they just come to me. I daydream A LOT so that it when many of them happen, but it’s also spontaneous at many times. Usually when I DON’T have the time to write them down. They come when I’m deep into my work (used to when I was a lab technician), or when I’m in the middle of a conversation, and they are THE MOST random ideas ever concerning when I come up with them. I guess I’m making the most of my wandering mind, right?
Then the writing’s supposed to start. Hahaha, yeah right. I used to write without outlines and stuff, just the general idea in my head and I never finished anything. My stories kept changing (they still do but to a lesser degree) as I wrote them, I got new ideas, and so I never got to the end. Also the fact that I’m just horrible at finishing anything, to begin with (also a common ADD trait). So what I found out is that I need to outline. Everything. The plot, the story, the character arcs, the draft chapter for chapter, scene for scene. Everything. And then once they’re written, I need to update them every now and then to make up for the changes. It’s the only way to get close to finishing my books.
Another thing I started doing since this year is writing shorter books. Whatever I wrote, because of all the extra ideas and subplots I tried to stuff in there because my mind is an endless pool of random but good ideas, my stories turned 4-10x as long as expected. No instead of going for a novel and ending up with a series of four epic novels, I go for short stories and end up with… a series of novellas -.-; But hey, we all learn and progress is progress. I’m proud to say I’ve managed to write flash fiction this year, so there’s hope.
Once the outlines are done, I’m finally able to write. If I’m medicated. Mostly. I’m not a fast writer so my wordcounts are low and I don’t write daily because I’m always swamped or too exhausted. On top of that, I always break the rule of “don’t edit while you write”. I can’t help it. Sometimes I manage to write a chapter without editing, the next I’ll be editing after each line. It’s just the way things work for me, so I’ve accepted that. It’s good to figure out what works for you personally, regardless of what other’s say.
Then after finishing a first draft (you mean that 10 times edited draft without an end and placeholders left in the last five chapters? mhmm, that one). I do some more editing (Elisa, don’t lie, you rewrite it at least three times first). As much as I can’t help and like to edit, it’s also something I struggle with because I have to read thousands upon thousands of words (duh?) and guess what, reading is impossible when you can’t focus. Especially low-paced parts where the paragraphs are longer (walls-o-text are torture) are a often impossible to go through, especially when I know what’s going to happen. I get bored easily and up, up and away goes my motivation. That’s where the wandering my mind does also happens a lot.
Writing on computer or phone
- Bright lights hurt my eyes because of my sensitivity to sensory stimuli. If you have the same problem, download a screen dimmer to adjust the lighting of your computer screen. You can find different types here. I use 7. Dimmer myself.
- There are google chrome extensions which can help you with your distractions. Extensions like Productivity Owl can be programmed to give access to specific sites only at a certain time. You can even make browsing the internet inaccessible for the time you’re planning on writing so you won’t get distracted by your social media timelines.
- Download a notepad app for your phone so you can take notes of your story ideas wherever you are. You won’t have to worry about forgetting your pen and paper.
- Go to a place where you can minimize distractions.
- Use the same place for writing and try to work a schedule that works for you.
- Sometimes while you write you’ll find out you need to research something. Instead of doing it immediately and three hours later finding out you’ve forgotten to return to your WIP, you can make a note of whatever you need to research and do it later. When you can’t write a line or piece because of whatever reason you have, you can use placeholders [word] [dialogue] [insert battle scene here] [description of
- When you can’t write a line or piece because of whatever reason you have, you can use placeholders [word] [dialogue] [insert battle scene here] [description of building] whatever works for you. I know of someone who used the word “elephant” whenever they couldn’t come up with a word and later used ctrl+f to replace all those words.
- Make outlines for your story so you know what you’re going to write. They can be as detailed as you want them to be.
- Write at your own pace. It’s more important to try and start writing than to set a minimum wordcount. You’ll have days where you get nothing more than a single line, while others you’ll get thousands of words done, and that’s okay. Even if you sit down and your mind is empty and nothing comes out, it’s okay to say “not today, maybe tomorrow”, as long as you try. (You’ll know for yourself when it’s useful to push yourself and when not, or it’s useful to find out).
- When you can’t write, you can try to do other writing-related things to stay active with your WIP. Do some worldbuilding, research something, adjust your outlines, do some editing, find inspiring images or music, draw your characters, do hashtag games on Twitter, etc. There’s lots of things you can do.
- Need a break? Do 5 min yoga exercises or just stretch for a couple of minutes. Go walk your dog.
- Need prompting? Set alarms on your phone. Ask a writing buddy to keep you accountable or ask you for your progress every now and then.
Motivation and inspiration
- Find beta-readers or critique partners to share your work with. Getting feedback can get you motivated to keep going.
- Make mood boards on interest with images which inspire you or fit your WIP.
- Make a playlist with music which would fit as a soundtrack to your WIP.
- Try to find out what triggers your hyperfocus. When you know how to start one, you can use it to get some writing done. Don’t forget to set an alarm so you don’t forget to eat and drink something! You can also place something to eat and drink at your desk so you have it at hand.
- Drink coffee or take your medication.
Have got something to share about writing with ADD? Leave a comment or use the hashtag #WritingWithADD