How To Turn Distraction Into Your Best Writing Session Ever

I am a writer.

I also have ADD.

But I suspect this experience is not entirely unfamiliar to other writers:

I’m working on a story, and then—BAM—I’m hit with a brilliant idea for another project, or a scene for later on in the piece, or a detail I want to make sure to include somewhere, etc.

The problem?

I either get so absorbed in the new idea that I completely lose focus on what I was working on, or I tell myself I’ll remember the new idea (but never, ever do).

Worse still, I sometimes try to maintain focus on both at the same time, trying to remember the new idea while still working on the original piece, rendering both efforts frustratingly inaccessible and mediocre.

My hands already cramp up trying to keep up with the speed of my thoughts; now I’m trying to hold onto an idea (or more than one!) while also pursuing a separate thread of attention. It’s simply not possible.

Writing on its own is hard enough—and research reflects this.

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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.

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