How to Set Up an ADHD-friendly Writing Schedule

“Just sit down and write.”

“It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.”

“If you really cared about writing, you’d do it.”

The problem with most writing advice is that it assumes what works for neurotypical writers will work for all writers.

But for writers with ADHD, these refrains only serve to make us feel worse.

Wanting to write but, inexplicably, not being able to, is like being trapped in a glass box where you can see the other side—can see other people doing it—but everywhere you turn you’re bumping into an invisible obstacle.

Once I started working with more writers like me—writers with ADHD—I began to realize that these invisible obstacles weren’t laziness or procrastination or lack of motivation.

They were part of the ADHD experience that most writers (and most writing coaches) don’t understand.

What follows are strategies I’ve used to help both myself and other ADHD writers make more consistent progress on a regular basis. Here are some simple steps you can take to create a writing schedule that works with your ADHD—instead of against it.

Continue reading How to Set Up an ADHD-friendly Writing Schedule

Top 10 Reasons People with ADHD Make Great Writers

Before I realized I had ADHD, I thought this was how everyone functioned.

I thought everyone misplaced their wallet multiple times a day, only to find it in the fridge (!) hours later. I thought everyone forgot what they were saying while they were saying it—not just once in a while, but constantly. I thought that my struggle to get out of bed in the morning was just personal laziness, lack of motivation, and a complete moral failing on my part.

Since I began treatment earlier this year, I realized something that seems obvious now: No, not everyone struggles like us.

But you know what?

Not everyone has our superpowers, either.

While it is true that ADHD creates a lot of obstacles other writers may not have to face with the same severity, I know from personal experience (and ongoing research) that ADHD also offers certain advantages when it comes to writing and creativity.

As a professor and writing consultant, I’ve worked with many ADHD writers, and let me tell you: we’re a pretty awesome bunch.

Here are my top ten reasons people with ADHD make great writers!

Continue reading Top 10 Reasons People with ADHD Make Great Writers

How to Nurture Your Creativity In Times of Crisis

woman's face, partially obscured by hand, completely covered in multiple colors of paint

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In the world of the current pandemic crisis, I’ve seen something pretty disturbing—and I’m not talking about the disease itself.

Over and over online, I’ve seen folks promoting the idea that if you’re not using this time to better yourself or write a bestseller or create beautiful art, you’re lazy, unmotivated, or undisciplined. 

I call B.S.

People react to crisis in different ways. Some need to increase activity and be productive, and some need to decrease activity and rest.

Neither of these responses is better than the other, and it’s unfair to shame anyone for their legitimate crisis response.

And if you’re feeling blocked creatively right now, guess what? That’s completely normal.

Your brain is undergoing a prolonged stress response, and a part of this response involves diverting the brain’s ability to solve new problems and juggle complex activities to one central task: survive

So if you’re writing a ton or not writing at all, working diligently on your work-in-progress or scribbling inconsistently, that’s perfectly okay. There are other ways to feed your creativity even when you’re not working on your WIP. 

Here are 10 simple things you can do to nurture your creativity even during uncertain times.

Continue reading How to Nurture Your Creativity In Times of Crisis

NaNoWriMo: What You Need to Know Before Committing

The flurry of clacking laptop keys. Coffee rings staining our notebooks. Refrains of “I can’t! I’m writing!” filling every cafe, library, and living room.

It’s here. November and National Novel Writing Month. What we affectionately call “NaNoWriMo” challenges writers to complete a novel of at least fifty thousand words in the month of November.

This can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never finished a novel, or if you’ve never written that much in that short of a time frame, or simply if you’re not used to maintaining such a rapid writing pace. For some, even thinking about keeping up makes the palms sweat.

So… is it worth it?  Continue reading NaNoWriMo: What You Need to Know Before Committing

10 Perfect Gifts for the Writer Who Already Has Enough Mugs

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Every holiday season, I see the same listicles: Ultimate holiday gift guide! Best gifts for women under 30 (whatever that means)! Sparkly gift ideas for the unicorn lover/Star Wars fan/scuba instructor in your life!

Since I’m a writer (as are many of my friends) I often find myself Googling “gifts for writers” around holidays and birthdays. And every list—every single one—has some kitschy mug with a snarky phrase: “Don’t bother me, I’m writing.” “I’m a writer; what’s your superpower?” “Don’t disturb the writer, or she’ll put you in her story and then kill you.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good kitschy mug. The proof: my shelves are full of them! But the truth is, I don’t need another. And most of my writer friends don’t either. (For the record, we’re also fully stocked on notebooks.)

So here’s your “ultimate holiday gift guide” for the writer in your life—sans mug. Continue reading 10 Perfect Gifts for the Writer Who Already Has Enough Mugs

5 Easy Ways to Write More While Traveling

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As a writer, I love to travel.

I differentiate this travel-love from the spark of wanderlust most everyone carries—this travel-love is about getting inspired, stealing tidbits from experiences I never would have had otherwise, and slipping them between pages in a story.

I’m a bit of a creeper, to be honest.

I’ll eavesdrop on conversations in coffee shops, even if I don’t understand the language, just to get a sense of the rhythm of emotional exchange. I’ll watch the local woman haggle for a better price on oranges while her kids weave around her varicose legs. I’ll write down every detail I can soak in—from the smell of the trees that only grow on this island, to the shape of the clouds over the sun at noon, to the insults drivers shout at one another in rush-hour traffic.

This is a kind of travel-love I think a lot of writers share.

But traveling for writers comes with its own share of challenges. How do we maintain our practice while on the road? How do we keep a routine when the very nature of travel disrupts the routines we spent so much time and energy cultivating?

And how do we maintain a balance between experiencing the place we’re in and holding space for our work?

It may sound crazy, but I find I’m often more productive while on vacation. This is because I know I’ll have a limited amount of time, and so I go in with a plan that is realistic for me to execute but still leaves space for what I want to accomplish.

Here are 5 things to think about as you get ready for your writing/traveling adventure so you can write more while still enjoying your vacation. Continue reading 5 Easy Ways to Write More While Traveling

Want to be a Writer? Stop Fetishizing Talent

“Can anyone help me become a poet?”

I’m a member of several groups for writers on Facebook—and this was a recent post in one of them. It struck me. I took this question (“Can anyone help me become a poet?”) as coming from a place of sincere desire to grow and hunger for art and artistry.

I clicked open the comments—I was so curious about what the advice would be.

Would they recommend great poets to read and get inspired by? Would they offer exercises, like free-writing or morning pages, to help unlock a boost of creativity? Would they tell stories of their own journeys as writers, about how hard they toiled over their craft?

To my dismay, most of the comments went something like:

  • “You can’t teach talent.”
  • “Talent is a gift—you’ve either got it or you don’t.”
  • “In order to be a Real Writer, you have to have a natural, God-given talent, and if you don’t, you’ll never make it.”

As someone who has taught writing for years, this broke my heart.

Here was a person genuinely interested in learning the art and craft of poetry, and comments like these were completely shutting him down.

And this isn’t an isolated sentiment. The idea that talent is to be prized above all else has haunted almost every writing community I’ve been a part of—from groups and forums online, to undergraduate workshops, to the halls of my MFA program, to the students and writers I’ve worked with both on and off campus.

Continue reading Want to be a Writer? Stop Fetishizing Talent

What Everyone Should Know about the “Suffering Artist”

Maybe your mom said it when you told her you wanted to go to art school. Maybe your teacher said it when you mentioned your novel. Maybe your friend said it after complimenting your work.

They meant well. They really did.

But they said it anyway:

“You know, you can’t make a living doing that.”
“Writing is a hard, hard life.”
Real artists suffer.”

This sentiment permeated the halls of my own grad school experience. We idolized the downtrodden and suicidal. We held up as examples the saddest and the most bereft: Hemingway, Plath, Wallace, and so on. They suffered, so we should, too.

Let’s take a step back and talk about reindeer (trust me on this)

Around Christmastime, a woman brought her son to one of those Santa Land parks—you know, you buy the tree and sit on Santa’s lap and look at all the pretty lights and go home sticky with candy cane. This particular Santa Land was completely decked out: trees, lights, fake snow, people dressed as elves—and actual reindeer.

…and reindeer poop.

Continue reading What Everyone Should Know about the “Suffering Artist”