Before I figured out I have ADHD I thought maybe I just didn't have what it takes to be a writer. It felt like I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. The only thing that kept me writing was that I couldn't not write. The stories inside me never quit and I feel like I'll explode if I can't get them out. I'm sure you know that feeling as well. Since giving up wasn't an option I had to figure out how to game myself and my shortcomings. After I was diagnosed I learned how to manage my ADHD by using a technique I picked up from Your Life Can Be Better by Douglas A. Puryear MD (which I seriously can't recommend enough) - implementing strategies. I use strategies for everything now - from staying on top of chores, juggling appointments, and paying bills on time. I figured if that could revolutionize my everyday life than surely it could work for my writing life as well.
Before you create a strategy you have to identify what the problem is exactly. For me, the biggest obstacle is procrastination - a problem a good majority of writers face. But procrastination is too big and messy, I had to get down to the heart of it. I procrastinate because I'm putting too much pressure on myself. All the years of false starts, negative self-talk, and self-imposed expectations that were far too high for what I was capable of at the time solidified into feelings of failure which created huge performance anxiety.
I knew I had to take the pressure off if I was ever going to get anywhere with my writing. The only way to get better as a writer is to write and if I couldn't stick with a writing schedule long enough to put in the time to practice writing. I created these strategies to avoid my weak areas that were holding me back until I felt confident to add more challenges as I became more capable.
Make It FunIf you're dreading what's sitting unfinished on your computer or in your notebook, chances are good you're going to avoid it all costs. We all have expectations of what we "should" be writing. It's easy to get caught up in the idea that if you aren't writing the next Great American Novel or tackling your ongoing Big Awesome Idea™ then it's just a waste of time. And that's a falsehood. Wasting time is when you spend weeks, months, years banging your head against your desk because you can't stick it out. Forcing yourself to write something outside of your current skill set or writing something that you're just not that into is a set up for anxiety and procrastination.
The time will come when you can tackle Big Awesome Idea™, consider making an impact in the literary world, or what you need to do to become the next author to make a living writing. In the meantime beef up your writing skills by writing something you crave versus something that gives you the cold sweats.
Put aside these currently unnecessary worries and write just for you. Write just for fun. Be as self-indulgent, ridiculous, cliched, and/or pointless as you want to be. Don't worry about finishing anything (right now, anyway) or making it readable to another person or even to yourself. Just write for the pure joy of the sound of your fingers hitting the keys or pen scratching paper. Thrill yourself with words being strung into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. You're simply trying to retrain your brain into thinking of writing as something it wants to do, something it can't wait to get back to. When your writing habit starts to become as automatic and enjoyable as turning on the TV you know you're ready to take your writing to the next level.
Be RealisticAs I stated above having an expectation of being able to write something amazing when you first start out or without putting in the long hours of practice to master the craft is completely unrealistic. No one would expect you to perform an opera after only singing in the shower a few times so you shouldn't expect to write a best-selling novel right from the get-go for the same reason. Great writing takes times and practice.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you try to force writing into your schedule when it's already over booked you're going to see it as a chore instead of something you enjoy. Writing isn't always fun but that doesn't mean you should turn it into a forced marched. All you will do is force yourself to come up with a hundred things you'd rather do than write. Getting up two hours early in the morning to fit writing into your schedule might have worked for Stephen King but that's unrealistic for the average human. We need sleep and we need to be kind to ourselves. Time for fun, being social, and rest is vital.
Try slipping 25-minute writing sessions into your day or dedicate a day or two a week to a few hours of writing. Make it something to look forward to rather than one more obligation to weigh you down. And not every day is going to be an awesome writing day. Some days you just aren't going to feel it. Give it a solid try but don't guilt yourself if it just doesn't happen.
Forget About PerfectionI'm just going to keep hammering this point home but nearly every writer I've talked to struggles with these. Writing is a unique endeavor because we rarely see the process that goes into its final product. When a book or story inspires us it's natural to run to your desk and want to do the same and then feel inadequate when it falls short.
Nothing is perfect in the rough draft stage. And that's true for all those books and stories that you love. Every single one sucked when it was first written, I promise you. Let yourself lay down bad word choices, half-finished scenes, and cringe-worthy dialogue until you reach the end before you worry about polishing it into something for someone else to read.
You Are Not Your FailuresRay Bradbury once said, "you fail only if you stop writing."
We all have unfinished drafts and half-formed ideas, criticisms that leave us feeling deflated and maybe even a rejection slip or two. We've all had good intentions of starting a writing habit only to falter a few weeks or months later. Do not let any of this pull you down into feeling inadequate. Low self-esteem and self-criticism are creativity killers. Go easy on yourself when you do falter. Life is messy, busy, and imperfect. You are not your failures nor are your failures a reflection on your abilities as a writer.
Take the path of least resistance in building your writing habit by making it something you can't wait to get back to. When the fears and insecurities that hold you back are conquered, or at least more manageable, you'll find it a lot easier to write, even the stuff that scares you.
Good luck and keep writing!
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