Thursday, February 10, 2011

Writing and Succeeding Despite My Brain

Head Full of AwesomeWhen an adult with ADHD sets out to complete a goal, it is a rare day when he remembers he set it. Heck, I'm lucky if I remember to bring my wallet when I go out shopping. Yet, keeping my goals in mind is exactly what I did for the past thirteen months. I've grown and stretched, and now it is finally time for the reckoning. After all, what good is setting a goal publicly if I don't just as loudly report on my successes and failures?

The Goal:
To finish a picture book, a chapter book, and a novel by December 23, 2010 and submit them to a publisher. Each project has its own unique challenges, not the least of which is actually reaching the end after the beginning has been written.

I aimed high to test myself. I knew I wouldn't likely finish the whole list, but I wanted to shoot for the stars and land on the moon, not shoot for the end of the street and talk about how nice the moon was this time of year. 

I listed ten obstacles that would get in the way of me reaching those goals. Today I will focus on how the first two obstacles affected me. They were Multi-Iron Syndrome and Choosing ONE thing to work on, two very ADHD-centric problems. Frankly, they were opposite sides of the same coin and they warred over my time like hungry seagulls in a McDonald's parking lot. 

My year looked a bit like this:

  • Write picture book
  • Blog for & start chapter book
  • Blog for
  • Blog for
  • Blog for
  • Notice chapter book had become a bit novelish in length
  • Blog for
  • Blog for
  • Blog for
  • Change my story chapter by chapter, thus forcing endless rewrites
  • Blog for
  • Decide to quit a good gig because there was no way I could finish my "chapter book" like this.
  • Write another picture book. What?
  • Focus in on finishing my chapter book, which was now officially a middle grade novel
  • Celebrate my 44th birthday
  • Dang.
So it was a failure, right? No. Although I wanted success in the form of a finished manuscript or two sent off in the mail somewhere, I also wanted to push myself and understand what internal stumbling blocks I could overcome. I wanted to bite off more than I could chew so I could learn to chew more.  What I determined was that the way to keep Multi-Irons Syndrome in check truly was to focus on one big project at a time. This wasn't new; I had written about it before. However, setting these goals put that epiphany to the test. The distractions didn't go away, but my attitude about them made all the difference. When I decided to stop writing for HealthyPlace and focus instead on my novel, that was the hardest and most important decision I made all year. Perhaps other people could blog all over the place and write a book in their spare time while being a full-time dad with a tic disorder, but I couldn't. I had limits.  What I like about recognizing limits is that I can then figure out how to work around them. They're not walls in my path; they're speed bumps. I celebrated my newfound freedom not by blogging a lot again here, but by writing a new picture book. Then I accepted that I spent the year writing over 60 articles for HealthyPlace and that doing so ate up my novel time. It was all OK; I was proud of what I wrote there. Then I rolled up my sleeves and started writing like mad.  The closer I got to my birthday deadline, the less I wrote here. Soon, all I was posting were audio clips on the run. I even stopped tweeting excessively.  Was this really me? Yes, and I was loving it. I may not have made my goal (I discussed my fatal writing flaw in my previous entry), but I had learned how to write productively. I had learned how to push away the distractions and use my hyper-focus to my advantage. I had learned how to tame this aspect of ADHD. This will be key going forward.  Next time I'll discuss distractions & ADHD and how they played a part in my Splintered Books Project.      Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.