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Part 1: Writer's Notebooks and Bullet Journals

Every writer, with ADHD or otherwise, should have a writer's notebook of some kind with them at all times. It can be electronic, a book or a few sheets of paper tied together with string (actually that last one is a terrible idea, don't do that).

And everyone with ADHD, whether or not they are writers, should carry something to write in. It can be electronic or a notebook or...never mind. With our tendency towards forgetfulness combined with the sea of random thoughts always churning around it's no wonder, we have a hard time remembering dates and important reminders. And writers with ADHD have it even harder. On top of the normal chaos of ideas people with ADHD juggle, we have the added distractions of a steady supply of story concepts, plot twists, and character developments thrown into the mix.


That's where the magic of the writer's notebook comes into play. Whenever a random lightening bolt of inspiration strikes, you can capture it safely in your notebook or writing app for further development later. Ideas aren't lost into the ether of the back of your mind, and it can help keep distractions to a minimum-ish.

But, wait, there's more!


We love new and shiny. That's why we are AMAZING at starting projects and coming up with ideas. It's the ability to follow through and stick with them to the end that is a lot less easy. We get quickly seduced by the allure of the new and shiny; it's just who we are. And when we get stuck in the hard parts of a project that happens to everyone our ADHD part of our brain wanders off for something more fun to amuse itself. When it latches onto something, it runs back to the rest of our brain and pulls it away tugging on its hand saying "Look! Look! I found this fun thing!" and well, you know the rest.

In the past, I've tried denying myself the temptation of the new and shiny. It worked for all of five minutes. It's just part of our nature, and it's tough to change a person's nature. When I was learning how to best myself with strategies to get things done in my daily life, I found the most successful tactics were the ones that worked with my tendencies instead of against them. For example, when I'm picking up the house, I'm all over the place. I can't stay in one room or even one spot for any length of time. I start the dishes, and while they are soaking, I clear off the table. Then as I'm putting these things away, I realize I need to tidy my desk to put my papers away that were cluttering up the dining room table. Then back to the dishes and then back to the table and oh jeez I have to start laundry and so on. No matter what I do, I can't seem to stick to one area. I tried really hard, but all it did was make me resent cleaning and create an opportunity for procrastination to set in, after which absolutely nothing gets done. When I started implementing the Pomodoro Method, I realized I could be just as spastic as I tend to be when I clean but still be effective. I set the timer for 25 minutes and go nuts. Rather than being pokey and wandering around the house with half-finished chores in my wake I speed through the house getting things done as I go. That's what I mean by turning your "weaknesses" to your advantage.


Well, for me, I get really fired up when I start a new project. I can practically see the sparks flying off of me as I brainstorm and plan. I've found that I can harness that kinetic energy and turn it loose over my other projects. I do this with the power of my writer's notebook.

My writer's notebook is part physical book and digital app because certain projects call for various areas of my brain and the different skill sets I possess (again, working with myself instead of against it).

In my Ulysses app I have a heading called Plot Bunnies, and in my writer's notebook, I have Spark Sheets. I dump those bright, beautiful new ideas that come at me while I'm in the thick of another activity in one or both places.  I let myself go at them for just long enough to capture the essence and highlights before turning that excitement back to what needs to be done now. It gives me the incentive to get the current project out of the way as soon as possible so I can get back to the new one. And I'm not worried about losing that idea because it's safe and sound in my writer's notebook. If more thoughts come to me for the new project, I can open up to that part of the notebook or app and add to the notes. Momentum stays moving forward on both without slowing down. Win win.

The only problem is this can be a tricky, slippery slope because it's all too easy to just abandon the idea I'm working on for the new one especially when the aspirations get loftier and loftier as I plan. That's why I set a time limit on playing with the shiny before I get back to the deadline of the original project.

So, let's review...


Dump all ideas into it. Seriously just get used to doing that, and it will become second nature to run to your notebook whenever you get an idea instead of leaving your current work in progress in the dust. Plus it will eliminate that dreaded moment when you realize you had a boss idea but can't remember it now. That feeling is the pits.


When you're trying to finish one thing, and the new ideas come calling knowing how to loosely outline projects comes in handy big time. This requires a little bit of work if you aren't in the habit of doing this, but it's so worth the time and effort. A lot of where we get distracted comes from trying to get all the stuff we see in our head down which is time-consuming and consumes a lot of mental energy leaving you with very little to get back to where you left off. Learn how to shorthand your ideas in a way that satisfies that need. It could be mind maps, traditional outlines, or a bunch of long run-on sentences - whatever works for you.


I tend have more than one project going at once. My writer's notebook and Ulysses app help keep it all contained. They're always with me so I can work on them at any time whenever the mood strikes. I can quickly pull out my phone or open my book and jot the notes down. If I have a spare few minutes, I write out a few rough paragraphs to edit later. This frees my brain up to focus on real life tasks while keeping the momentum of my stories going without missing a beat.

Next week I'll get to the system I use to keep track of everything, writing and otherwise with bullet journaling. For now, get yourself a notebook or writing app if you haven't already, and we'll meet back here on Monday.

Happy Writing!

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