Monday, October 27, 2008

Dear ADHD, Will You Please Get Out of the Way When I Write a Letter?

How are your ADHD-fueled letter writing skills? Ever consider writing the point of the letter first?

(cc) Esther_GWhen I was courting my wife for the the final and most important time, we were 2000 miles apart and could only "date" via phone and letter. This was 1987 and computers were still something you needed access to the lab for, which means I wrote her letters by hand. I wrote so much that I gave up on individual sheets of paper and instead purchased notebooks. I'd fill a notebook up then mail it off while filling up the next.

I have no idea if she truly read the libraries of letters I sent her. I can only assume she did since she knew what she was getting into and agreed to my proposal a few months later, but at the time I was bothered by the fact she didn't write back in reply. She would tell me that she didn't see the point. After four hours on the phone she had little more to add. Frankly, my twenty year old mind couldn't relate. This was, perhaps, the first time I truly began to realize how ADHD made me different from other people.

As an adult, I know that most people won't enjoy receiving a small novel in the mail every week, but that awareness was slow in coming. I have spent many years filling people's inboxes with my incredibly long letters. Just be glad you aren't on my mailing list. When I get going proving that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a farce, the mail servers of the internet bleed from the burden of passing my missive along. I have two brothers who won't get into political discussions with me anymore because their cute or snarky partisan quips inspire large fact-filled tomes in response with URLs, quotes, and lessons in history.

Fortunately, I have learned not to do that to business contacts and strangers. I try to keep my phone calls and letters brief, but there is always a nagging feeling that I wasn't brief enough.

People with ADHD who manage to sit down long enough to write a letter have one of three problems. Let's explore these problems and discuss a way to manage them.

1) Too Brief

Simply put, these letter writers cut to the crash, bypassing the entire scene showing the initial transgression of the law and the speedy car chase through neon lit streets. They lack social graces and blurt out what they are writing about with all the élan of a freight train.

2) Too Long-winded

Have you read my blog lately? This one might be self-explanatory, but these writers have a tangential relationship with the point of the letter. After paragraphs of side commentary and fascinating discussions of unrelated topics, they might meander towards the point somewhat towards the end.

3) Too Unfocused

These writers, bless their hearts, may never reach the point of the letter. There are words. The words are linked in that wordy way that we are accustomed to. However, by the end of the letter the reader must don a Sherlock Holmes hat and reread the letter looking for clues as to the letter's purpose.

There is a way to fix all of the above problems. I share this secret with you now so that you can get the girl or boy of your dreams, land that job interview, or finally get somebody to understand why you wrote to them in the first place.

Write the point of the letter first.

When I write a letter, I'll first jot down what the point of the letter is before writing anything else. Once I've made sure that my point is clear, I'll add in the niceties.

Dear So and So,
You owe me money.
All the best,

Once that part is out of the way, I add the social padding that letters need, such as soft introduction, a paragraph reminding them of our relationship, and a conclusion, then rewrite the letter to fit. I always keep brevity in mind. Whether I succeed at it or not is up for debate.

Dear So and So,
It was wonderful chatting with you seven months ago. Working on that logo for you was a highlight in my career.

I regret to say that the check you claimed was in the mail has never made its destination. I've allowed for mail delays due to Spring and Summer, but now that the Fall is upon us I must come to the conclusion that we'll need to make other arrangements.

As you know, I'm of Italian descent and my cousin, Vinnie, has agreed to come by your place of work to collect my earnings. I wouldn't try to avoid him. He can be cranky. Just a heads up between old and dear friends.

All the best,

By putting the point of the letter down first, a long-winded or unfocused ADHD writer can avoid some of the pitfalls of their writing style. Likewise, the short-worded writer can now go back and pad his writing to avoid curtness and lack of social niceties.

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