A writer's perspective: The challenges of ADD

This post was written by guest blogger and unpublished fiction novelist Matt Chiappino:

As both a budding fiction writer and a person with ADD I’ve noticed a few similarities between the career and the condition. ADD can actually be a boon or a hindrance depending on the situation. In some ways the condition can almost prove helpful, as the ADD mentality is certainly creative in nature. I’ve found myself rattling off idea after idea once I get those creative juices flowing. It’s when the actual work part comes along, focusing on a single chapter, organizing and editing my manuscript, where problems start to surface. So even though I’m not an officially published author yet I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts I had on writing and the condition based on personal experience.

FOCUS: The hallmark of ADD. One day I could be doing great. I’m focused on what I need to be, my thoughts and mind zeroed in on that critical chapter or paragraph. The next day I might not be there at all, instead thinking about how I’ve going to have a bad day at work because someone called off and we’re shorthanded blah blah blah. Outside of medication, which works for some like me but not all, the best way to focus one’s mind is during those spare moments of open mental acuity when one’s mind is unencumbered by distractions. When I want to work but can’t blot out the day’s events past or present I might try taking a quick shower. Not only do I feel physically clean, it gives my mind a chance to eject the clutter and junk clogging it and let me refocus with a fresh perspective. Or might try to lay down and take a nap. Even if I sleep just an hour or two, the sheer fact of disconnecting from the junk lets me wake up fresh and renewed, like starting over with a clean slate. The key here is to get that instance of hyper-focus that comes every so often when are minds are latched onto something for a significant time and latch onto a subject of our choice.

PATIENCE: Yes, I know, that dreaded word we’ve all come to hate hearing. I’m no different. A huge part of writing anything though, is patience and persistence. Especially with the longer projects like novels, one has to keep plugging away, writing, rewriting, revising, several times over. Writing is a lengthy process that’s difficult for most people to see through to the end. With ADD thrown in, it can be even more frustrating. But it’s not impossible if one wants it bad enough and is willing to put forth the effort. The best way I’ve found to be productive writing is in small pieces. Don’t sit down and tell yourself it’s time to write the next best-selling novel or short story, it could very well lead to excess pressure or perfectionism. Just write a little bit at a time, say one page a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but think about it. One page a day is 365 pages in a year, a full length novel. Granted, it still takes time for revision and editing, but the bulk of the work, and focus, is already done. Turn creativity into part of the daily routine. Even if you can’t write a full page for whatever reason, just dedicating time every day to creative work does wonders for productivity. And when you do accomplish your goal for the day, treat yourself somehow. Make sure to remind yourself you’re doing well when you are and that every page, every hour spent working is another step closer to the goal. It does wonders for keeping up with the next issue.

CONFIDENCE: From what I’ve seen and lived, the insidious nature of ADD isn’t the condition in itself but the real world implications it often has on the person dealing with it. Unable to budget priorities, unable to get or hold down a job, feeling like a complete failure at life itself as you see your friends and family succeed with apparent ease while you struggle with basic survival, all that tends to devastate one’s belief in their own ability. And nothing kills a writing session faster than self-doubt. This sucks…no one’s going to like it…I’m going to fail again, that’s the ADD talking, don’t listen to it. With focus, patience, and confidence you will succeed. Don’t hope you will, know you will. Imagine yourself standing on a podium, answering a bazillion questions about your best selling novel or short stories or whatever, while getting your picture taken by the media. Healthy fantasies like that help keep people going during times of difficulty so don’t be ashamed to use them.

PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE: For a lot of people this is the most difficult element, not just with writing but anything creative in nature. Let’s face it, words can hurt, and negative criticism of something you’ve spent months or even years on hurts so much more. But as much as we all love positive feedback, as writers we need the negative feedback. We need to know what we’re doing wrong to learn from it in future. Take in the criticisms, not to heart but examine them rationally. Are they right? Are their points valid about my work? Some will give you constructive feedback that you can use to good effect in future. And others will just spit fire with no constructive use to the writer. You have to be daring, willing to face any fears of hurtful criticism or slander to make a writing career.

Case in point, I have a confession to make. Even though I’ve written and used the internet extensively I’ve never actually had anything posted for the whole world to see. The fact is I’m terrified of the world at large, but it’s a fear I have to conquer if I’m going to be successful. This very blog post you’ve just read is my own way of facing that fear. I hope you found it interesting.

And thank you so much Beth, for giving me the opportunity.

- Matt Chiappino