Writing with ADHD: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O'Callaghan

While everyone’s diagnosis can vary, people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be easily distracted, lack focus, and experience short-term memory. This can prove challenging if you are a writer so it’s important to be patient as you figure out what strategies and routines will work for you. I have put together some articles and podcasts that offer suggestions and resources that may help you overcome some of the challenges you face.

  1. https://www.additudemag.com/how-to-write-a-novel-adhd-brain/

This is an interesting article by a journalist, Rick Hodges, who is now an award-winning novelist. He discusses how his ADHD brain helped him to write a novel. He shares how his ADHD mind shaped his fiction writing. For him, freedom was the most significant connection, he didn’t need any permission, qualification, or interview. Writing capitalises on his ADHD creativity and hyperfocus, it harnesses his non-linear ADHD thinking and rewards his ADHD observational skills He explains how it does and how he finds motivation in inspiration, and how writing has conditioned him to overcome rejection sensitive dysphoria. While his ADHD still frustrates him, he’s learned that some aspects of ADHD are an advantage if he finds a way to put them to good use.

  1. https://goinswriter.com/adhd-writing-habit/

For those with ADHD sitting down to write can be difficult. This article will show you how to finally get past the resistance and use it to get a writing habit locked in. Identifying the fear, killing the distractions, setting up a writing space, packing your bag, setting micro-goals, and creating a reward system are all discussed as ways to move forward with your writing.

  1. https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-challenges-with-writing#how-to-combat-challenges

If you experience ADHD, there are tools available to help you express your creative ideas in writing. Research for this article is based on students but the strategies provided can help writers of all ages. Using a note system for ideas and thoughts can help. Start slow. It can be overwhelming if you try to tackle everything at once. Using a graphic organiser, such as a Venn diagram or a concept map, can help with memory recall and organisational skills. Using speech strategies software can be helpful to get thoughts to paper. You can then construct the flow and align similar ideas. Word prediction software, such as Grammarly, is excellent for spellchecking, finding the right words, and sentence structure. Take your time when getting started and do some research to discover tools that work best for you.

  1. https://catapult.co/dont-write-alone/stories/how-to-write-a-novel-or-anything-really-with-adhd-tessa-flattum

Another very interesting article and this one is from Tessa Flattum. She explains that instead of fighting herself tooth and nail to subscribe to a neurotypical writing lifestyle, she’s choosing to expand her ADHD brain’s strengths and abilities. Everyone’s ADHD might present differently so take what resonates and leave what doesn’t. This isn’t a how-to guide or an exhaustive list of writing tips, but a brief summary of the things Tessa has realised work best for her. Sticking with one solid idea and following it through to the end can be a big challenge for people living with ADHD. She shares five ways to ‘trick’ her brain to stay motivated. These include learning your biorhythm, trying ‘pantsing’ a novel, getting a body double, using a reward system, and having lots of snacks and drinks on deck.

  1. https://larawillard.com/2018/03/02/tools-tricks-for-writers-with-adhd/

This article from editor and story consultant, Lara Willard, explains some ADHD hurdles for writers. Not only can motivation and focus be difficult for brains with ADHD, but it can also affect writers in other ways. It’s difficult, sometimes impossible, to get started on the task because of ADHD’s connection to perfectionism and the fear of failure. Other obstacles and how writers with ADHD have learned to handle them are removing obstacles such as the internet and distracting environments, implementing tools such as using a pen and paper not only removes the distraction of the internet, but it also gives sensory input, which can improve focus. Making writing into a game or competition can increase interest by introducing a sense of urgency. Allowing certain distractions, and harnessing hyperfocus are also important.

  1. https://podcasts.apple.com/ie/podcast/writing-with-adhd/id1212125241?i=1000620635948

Lani talks about her latest adventures, and blocks, in her writing process, and then talks to writer and podcaster Brandon Saiz about how his recent ADHD diagnosis opened up writing for him in new and surprising ways.

  1. https://themerrywriterpodcast.podbean.com/e/how-can-adhd-writers-stay-motivated-ep-180-the-merry-writer-podcast/

Do you sometimes struggle with your ADHD and motivation when you’re writing? Are you having trouble finding a writing routine and sticking with it? Don’t worry; Jeremy Russell joins Ari and Rachel this week with tips and tricks for us all. In this episode, they cover: an example of what the ADHD thought process may look like, struggles writers with ADHD might have, how to stay motivated, and techniques to stay focused.

  1. http://www.howdoyouwrite.net/episodes/330

In this episode, Sangu Mandanna discusses how to harness ADHD as a writing superpower.

These articles and podcasts aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone’s situation is different and giving things a go, and picking and choosing with these suggestions is recommended. It’s important to stay open-minded. And remember, authors such as Agatha Christie, Dev Pilkey, and George Bernard Shaw were all diagnosed with ADHD and their achievements are a testament that you can overcome the obstacles and challenges of ADHD. Happy writing!

I hope you have found this week’s column useful. As always if there are any topics you would like me to cover please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel, The Lies Beneath – to be published by Poolbeg in April 2024.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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