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Being A Writer With ADHD (and some tips to get you out of that hell)

I've known I have ADHD since I was seven years old or so. I medicated it until high school, then stopped, for a whole host of reasons. But now I'm almost 23, and I knew that my neurodivergence was affecting my schoolwork and writing to the point where I was having a really hard time. I was struggling both to get things done and with the intense shame that comes with having a simple task to complete - there's a sock on the floor and I should put it in the laundry basket; I should email my teacher about next week's assignment- and being unable to complete it. Even if it's as easy as standing up and putting a sock in a basket, sometimes, ADHD brains will come up with any excuse not to do it. And it's exhausting.


I went home from college for the winter break last December and went to my PCP, getting prescribed medication to help my ADHD. Concurrently, after a grueling semester, I suddenly had a month of free time on my hands. I decided I wanted to try to finish drafting my novel, which I was sure wouldn't happen until late 2023, if ever.


When I stopped treating myself like a person who doesn't have the drive or attention span to do what she loves for a sustained period of time and started treating myself like a person whose brain works a little differently and needs specific tools to focus, I got 30,000 words written in under two weeks. I'd never felt so alive, so productive, and so in love with what I was doing.


But it wasn't just the medication that was helping me. I'll list (and link when I can) some of the tools I used to finish the first draft of The Song of The Sword, tools I still use now that I'm back in school, doing school work from 9-5 and then going home and writing or editing until at least 11 PM.


Focus Timer

Commonly referred to as the Pomodoro Method, the idea behind it is that you write/read/do something for 25 minutes, and then get five minutes of rest before starting again. I learned pretty early into the winter break that I do well when working this way. Many free apps will set up these time constraints and beep when it's time to break. But there are also cute timers like this one! They're super easy to find on Amazon.


Pop It

I've always needed something to do with my hands or I go a little crazy. I've gone through countless sticky notes and index cards just folding them and ripping them up until I've created office supply confetti. When I'm writing, it isn't as much of an issue because I'm using both hands, but in the editing stage of my work, I found having a pop-it toy on my desk was great for keeping me focused! My brain actually functions the best when I'm multitasking, and I had to explain to a professor that when I'm doodling on my iPad in class, I'm actually retaining and paying attention to far more of the lecture than I would if I were trying to follow him while my hands weren't moving. In any case, pop-it toys are great, super cheap,easy to find, and they make them in about a million different colors and shapes. I didn't realize until I started treating my ADHD that the ripping of paper was an ADHD trait stemming from my need to do something with my hands.







ADHD Planner

Now, this is the real secret sauce. Back in December, I typed "ADHD" into the search bar on Etsy. I'm not sure why- blame it on my ADHD, I guess. But one of the first things that came up was a digital ADHD planner, made by someone with ADHD. I downloaded it, not sure how much it would help me, but it ended up being worth it's weight in gold. I learned that being incredibly specific with myself - saying "I'm going to finish chapters 7 and 32 today" instead of just "I'm going to write today" gave me the motivation I needed to actually see progress being made. Before, I was writing a few words here and there on each chapter but not finishing anything and therefore feeling like I hadn't done anything. That specificity, along with the ability to just add pages as I went instead of feeling the pressure to plan every day out made me feel so validated. There are printable versions of the planner, but I downloaded it to my IPad and have used it with my Apple Pencil. I can't recommend it enough! I've linked the image to FutureADHD, the Etsy shop I purchased it from :)




Nightcore Music

I don't know what it is about Nightcore music (songs that have been pitched higher and sped up) that tickles my brain just right, but damn it, if I turn on my Nightcore playlist on Youtube, I can focus for hours. Something in it triggers my executive function; the other night, I was moving chapters around and combining things, and I had a very strange hour and a half of talking to myself while I worked (and I couldn't hear myself at all because I was blasting Nightcore). I also love instrumental music! I'll link my Youtube Playlist below.




I love my book, almost too much. These tools have helped me to finish this project - and that is the most validating feeling of all.


Xoxox- Emmabird


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