Thursday, April 29, 2010

ADHD & Insomnia - My Colorful Life

It is Wensday.

I will be writing soon.

On a book and everything.

Maybe even my current book.

The question is what delayed me?

After all, the week began three days ago.

And Wensday's such an awkward day to begin.

The week's half gone & it's not even spelled correctly.

Friday, my ADDaboy! writing day, is right around the corner.

That means I have to park my novel for another spell of blogging.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I am not happy about this.

Wait, wasn't there a question? Right. What delayed me? I think I have the answer.


This is a TweetStats chart of my Twitter activity for @SplinteredMind. @DouglasCootey shares similar stats, but is less active. The chart is a great visual record of when I’m awake. In short, I’m working at the wrong times of the day, and I’m taking too long to get fired up and working.

As you can see, my sleep schedule is turned around again. By the time I go to write, the girls are home and, unlike many supermom writers that I know, I can't write and watch kids at the same time. It’s one or the other, and usually the other wins.

First thing every morning I catch up on news with Twitter and blogs. I eat. I get ready for the day. Then the girls come home. I take care of them and, if I’m not ticking, I drive them around. Any work I do is stretched out in fits and starts. Then in the evening when the girls are in bed, I tweet less and work more, but I’m tired after taking care of kids for six to eight hours. Everything I work on takes forever to finish. This blog took four hours with all the distractions. Yes, I did other things, but it’s not an optimal schedule for my mind.

As much as I enjoy the quiet serenity of the night owl life, the only time I can truly write uninterrupted with full energy is when the girls are at school. In order to do that, however, I need to be awake and writing first in my day, not last.

This gives me three goals to work on:

  1. Turn my sleep schedule around. (Insomnia)
  2. Write at the right time of day without distractions (ADHD)
  3. Lastly, as I mentioned the other day, write the ADDaboy! articles faster. (ADHD)

I’ll revisit these stats in a month’s time to see how I’m doing (I'll likely need reminders). I either learn how to master my ADHD & Insomnia, or I’ll never finish my books. The only other alternative is to be A-OK with underachieving. No thank you.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Which Douglas Spots a Problem

Not Quite SpringAt first I thought the switch from MacBook to iPad couldn't have come at a worse time. Then I realized that as an adult with ADHD there never was a good time for such a switch. It was destined to disrupt my life. Exchanging one workflow for another always has a price in time lost for most people. Fortunately, I'm up to speed now and I expect more helpful apps will arise from the iPad walled garden with a bit of Apple sunshine, some consumer supplied water, and a developer's eager hoe. I can be patient.

The real threat to my novels project is not my iPad. The iPad is slick, shiny, nifty, and fun. I rather like it. I love how light it is. I like the interface. I don't regret purchasing it. There are splendiferous apps coming out for it almost daily, and a lot of them are free or only 99¢. In time, my workflow will readjust and I will be on my way writing and writing and writing…assuming I can stop ADDaboy! from taking over my life.

I don't like to let my disabilities define me, but they can be rather awkward obstacles to ignore. They lie ahead of me like pot holes, each one opening a chasm into the very bowels of Hell. I can skirt them if I can see them, but the effort leaves me a bit tuckered out, to be honest. Making my deadlines while ticking is very difficult to do, and consequently these quick little 500 word articles are taking up an awful lot of my creative time. It's not that I need three days to write 500 words, but that sometimes it takes me three days to get 500 words done when disabilities keep interrupting.

ADHD…Chronic Motor Tic Disorder…Insomnia…Depression

Each pot hole has a name and some weeks they are bigger than others. Since ADDaboy! is a paid gig, it gets priority—leaving me with no time to work on my own stories. I also don't spend any time whatsoever mailing my first finished book out to agents and publishers. There needs to be a severe change in my life or the goals will be lost. Already, some family members suggest that I no longer write ADDaboy! so that I can spend my time working on my novel.

It is very nice to have such love and support from family. That is a priceless possession. In addition, there has been another upside. I am so pressed for time that I am spending less of it reading news. However, I am not convinced that the solution is to quit writing ADDaboy! If I could only shorten my articles and pump them out quicker, say one per hour, then I could meet my obligations and my goals.

That's where I am at. I appreciate the comments many of you have left. I know many of you are interested in how I manage my disabilities while undertaking such an aggressive goal. It is my intension to meet this goal regardless of the obstacles. I'll just have to work harder.

Since Friday was spent being a neurological mess, and Saturday was spent moving my oldest daughter off to BYU for spring term, I will begin anew today with ADDaboy!. I have finished my projects series and can see that ADDaboy! has become one of those side-projects that has become the main project—like in the main picture above. The main focus is supposed to be the flowers, but the dead trees and chain fence detract from their beauty. They are clutter that has taken over.

The mental readjustment began yesterday. Today I will limit each article to one hour by way of a timer. I had been using keeptempo.com as a time tracker but had stopped for some reason. I suppose I thought it was too much work and that I didn't need it. That was a mistake. My oldest daughter won't be a busy li'l distraction anymore now that she's away, so assuming I can hogtie my sleep schedule tonight to something decent, I should be able to awake earlier and get serious work done while the kids are away at school. That is the goal. Wish me luck.

Of course, if the Goblin stays home sick like we've been discussing, I'll need more than luck. I'll need divine intervention.

In Which Douglas & His iPad Get Along Swimmingly

The Story So Far: Intrepid writer, Douglas Cootey, was sweet talked into promising his shiny, new MacBook to his high school sophomore. Two years later, his MacBook no longer shiny and his bank account even less so, the hour came to keep his promise. What was he to do? Fortunately, the noble and righteous Apple company bestowed upon its minions a new "magical" device that could do almost everything a laptop could do, do it with multi-touch style, and even cure cancer. Douglas was saved! Then he actually had to use the thing…

My New Writing Pad

If you've been following my blog for the past few months, you know I was getting an iPad. I had planned on writing about the experience weekly, but adapting from a MacBook to an iPad has been full of fascinating obstacles which have taken up my time. Adapting my computer life to the iPad while also balancing full-time Dad duties with a blogging gig over at HealthyPlace.com and disabilities has left me with little time for extracurricular writing, all of which has been given to my novel.

I'm happy to say that I am indeed writing my novel on an iPad, something I was concerned would be needlessly difficult, but I've figured out a system that has helped me get up a

The typing input ended up becoming the least of my difficulties. I use a bluetooth keyboard for most of my writing, and I bought a typing tutor to help me become familiar with the virtual keyboard (I have glass typing up to 50WPM now, except for the infernal placement of the apostrophe & quote on a submenu). Most of the trouble with the iPad has been in adapting my workflow.

ADDaboy!: I use Apple's Pages for writing my ADDaboy! articles, and copy & paste them into a WordPress app that crashes if you hit the tab bar, and whose GUI seems to be operating through a roulette wheel of chance for every function. Will "Edit" actually edit the document this time, or will it exit again and act as if the document doesn't exist unless you relaunch the app? Needless to say, such random haphazardness is not conducive to productivity and I'll be abandoning for my next article. For now, I do all marking up and photo editing for my articles on my Mac mini downstairs by copying & pasting via Pastebot (which also gives me a word count per clipping). Getting photos from my iPhone to the iPad without syncing to the base Mac is tricky. Fortunately, an app called ImageServer builds an airbridge between the two devices so I can edit, tweak, and modify photos using the excellent photo apps on the iPad. Most of the time I just end up doing image editing on my Mac mini. iPad grade: C

Splintered Books Project: Writing my novel is a better experience. I use an app called MyWritingNook, based on the website, which lets me organize my chapters, gives me word counts, and keeps the novel synced between my Mac mini and my iPad. It saves the novel onto the iPad as I type it, so interruptions in the app by alarms or battery outages never cost me any time in lost work. I offer high praise to the dev who put this writer's ecosystem together. There is no syncing between Scrivenir, however, something I don't fault MyWritingNook for, but something I need still the same. iPad grade: A-

Distractions: I am so sorry. Godfinger was free and I was weak. As my tiny planet develops and my worshippers have needs, Godfinger will helpfully interrupt everything that I am doing with pop-up warnings. Oh no! My subjects need more sun! Oh dear! They're exhausted and need rest. Never mind that all these god games seem to believe that the denizens of our Earths are incapable of thinking for themselves, who the heck can get anything done when a sim game can send you pop-up warnings?! It's murder on ADHD. I have repented and shut that feature off. My worshippers may stand in limbo awaiting my celestial command to tinkle, but I at least am productive again. Now please excuse me as I command the clouds to rain so my people can farm for gold. Apparently, it comes up out of the ground on my world and only needs sunshine, some water, and a hoe to gather.

OK, I'm back.

The big question is what does all this mean for my Splintered Books Project? More on that in an hour. I have a Big Bad Sudoku Book game to finish. Douglas grade: D

ADDaboy! - ADHD and the Allure of Projects

ADDaboy!


I spent most of April exploring ADHD issues with finishing projects and why we seem to collect them like free fifty dollar bills. Let me know what you think of the series. Finishing it nearly killed me, but I fortunately gnawed off my foot to keep in focus and finish the project series to the end.










ADDaboy! - Catching Up

ADDaboy!


I've been so preoccupied that I've forgotten to announce what I've been up to over at HealthyPlace.com

ADHD - I’m Only Mostly Organized
I’m so disorganized. I seem to mess up paperwork on ADDitude Magazine every time. Can you relate with being so disorganized you lose important papers?


3 Ways To Not Be an ADHD Twitter Twit
I’m simply going to tell you how to use Twitter without losing your ADHD self in it.


One person has told me this advice doesn't help him at all, but if you find Twitter overwhelming at times, I highly recommend implementing some variation of these tips. I rely on them.

Motivated to Procrastinate
Do you have a difficult time getting things started? Find yourself highly motivated to find something else to do? Are you even aware when you do it? Today we’re going to discuss chronic procrastination—one of the hallmarks of adult ADHD.


Putting the Brakes on ADHD-Fueled Road Rage
Adults with ADHD often have anger issues, and nothing brings them steaming to the surface like lousy traffic. In a follow-up to my blog on anger management and driving, I show Bug Out Bob in action and talk about different techniques to help manage road rage.


I take to the YouTubey internets again. It's Two-Fisted ADHD in action!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Melancholy Distraction - Birds in Flight

There is a downside to Spring. It comes upon the wind and makes me regret I was ever born with a nose. There is an upside as well. It comes upon wings and greets my ear with melody. I could focus on the downside. I certainly can't ignore it. My nose and eyes bear the brunt of Spring's renewal today.

Green Assault


However, considering that the downside has both my immunity system and my spirits in the dumps, I think I'd rather focus on the upside.

As you know by now, I have purchased an iPad and given my very happy eighteen year old my "BlacBook" for college. This has been a sacrifice for me since the iPad—only three weeks old—lacks the applications I need to replace my MacBook fully. I manage by doing part of my writing on the iPad, then running downstairs to the aging Mac Mini to finish marking up and posting the article.

The other day I was working on an ADDaboy! article on my iPad. I poked at the screen. Thought a bit. Poked some more. Looked out the back door. Poked at the page and played with the artificial physics as I slid it up and down…

Truly, a master at work.

Then I noticed a flash of color outside the back door. At that height, it had to be a bird, but it couldn't be. Not that close to the door.

I continued to not work on my article when I noticed the flash of color again. This time I caught the bright ochre splash of a medium-size bird's underside as it near the top of my door again. Now here was something far more interesting than my article. I deemed it was time for a break and headed outside, iPhone camera in hand.

Immediately I could hear the fierce, hungry chirping of chicks with a need. Their chirps were louder and deeper than those I usually heard around my apartment building. I turned the corner and headed to the only candidate—one lone tree on the other side of the fence.

Searching for birds


Before the city forced the denizens of the White Manor motel park out of their homes and off the property, there were trees aplenty to shade us from the sun and give cover for the birds of the neighborhood. Now tall condominiums block out the sun like stark monoliths towering over us. Even still, one scruffy pine remained.

It's trunk was covered in dead vines that had yet to escape Winter's clutches, but the tree still stood strong. I could hear the chicks from within it's sparse branches, and a dark flutter escaped before I could reach it. As I stared into the branches for a clue, I only saw a finch. I was puzzled, but disappointed. Finch chicks don't make the ALL CAPS chirps these hungry critters were belting out. I took a few shots with my iPhone, even lying down to get a dynamic angle.

I laid there on my back, thinking of my article as well as worrying about my eighteen year old. I also wondered what the neighbors would think if they came through their door at that moment and found me lying down at the foot of their steps.

There she is!


Suddenly the bird I had been searching for stepped out of the shadows to look expectantly where the other bird had flown. It's entire breast was a rich ochre color, but as striking as that was, I could not identify it. I took more shots, then the bird, which I assumed to be the mother, alighted to the roof of my apartment. It disappeared for a moment, then reappeared and warbled to the missing spouse. Disappeared again, then reappeared a few feet away to warble again anxiously. Dinner was late.

Telling Hubby to get a move on with that food


As I returned to my desk to continue working, I couldn't stop thinking about how anxious I was to have my first chick leave her nest. I had spent all the years of her life preparing her for this day to be strong, independent, and ready to take on the world, but had never prepared myself to let her go. What a sad, poignant irony.

Family needs interfered with more writing, and I finished the article another day, but I do not regret the time spent hunting for that bird. My mind needed the opportunity to work out what had been troubling it. My daughter and I are so similar, so independent, that we often clash passionately—our hot-headed Italian & Irish blood mingling into a volatile reaction. I know she often thinks of me only as the man who tries to keep her in the nest, and she resents me for it. I hope that one day she will see that I've actually been giving her flying lessons since I taught her how to hold her own bottle. I can see a little further ahead than she can, and have always been careful not to let her get too far out.

On Saturday she flies on her own. Even though I may not be, I know she is finally ready.

Friday, April 16, 2010

iBooks' eBooks Aren't Worth the Price on the iPad

Many people in forums across the internet have been complaining about how pricey the ebooks in the iBooks store are. Don't they realize we are seeing the results of the Kindle/Publisher war that Amazon.com lost? Don't they remember? Amazon.com was the bad guy. The agency model now rules. Publishers can now set their own prices. Huzzah! Customers get to pay $12.99 for an electronic file that is only readable in iBooks—a file that can be corrupted during a brownout, or even deleted. Victory! People can't loan the ebook to friends. They can't resell it when they no longer want it. Viva la revolución!

I'm not a luddite. I've been enjoying digital music for so long some of my songs are MP2s. When iTunes Store opened, I was a steady customer. The price was just right. I could spend an hour trying to find a "free" version of a song, or a few minutes for a 99¢ one. It wasn't hard to decide how I should spend my time. Likewise, Kindle for the iPhone opened a new world of ebooks for me, most priced affordably for impulse purchasing. Then came the war.

Amazon.com truly miscalculated. Instead of playing hardball by stating terms and allowing the publishers to be the bad guys by letting them pull their product lines, Amazon.com took their ball and tried to go home. Outrage! Fans united. Authors bloviated and fumed. Editorials were written. Amazon.com's draconian solution to contract negotiation blew up in their faces.

Now we're left with binary puffs of text priced $9.99 to $12.99. Many people have explained why this is a bad thing (Try Sharon Zardetto's excellent post on the subject). Raising prices in a downturn economy is bad, overcharging for 1s and 0s is bad, high prices depressing impulse buying is bad, etc. Sharon points out that more expensive books means she buys less. That's what I have found now with $1.29 music tracks on iTunes. I buy less. 99¢ was right at my impulse point. 30¢ more makes me think just long enough to decide to buy something else for 99¢ or not buy anything at all. 69¢ tracks are as rare as unicorns. In fact, variable pricing is such a pain that I buy less now than in years before. I'm not alone.

Publishers believe that people should pay for convenience. They dismiss arguments of perceived value. The problem is that ebooks are often priced higher than paperbacks and that discrepancy in perceived value affects people such as myself. When you mix poor product quality with high prices, I am left scratching my head as I wonder how these guys think this is a good business model.

I bought two books through iBooks to test the experience. The first was Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness with extra commentary. I paid $8.99. When I found the same book in Project Gutenberg for free, I felt cheated. Suddenly, perceived value on a few extra pages of essays and photos was a lot lower than what I paid. The second book I purchased was Jim Butcher's Storm Front. I paid $6.99. At this price point, I was willing to accept added value for convenience because the price seemed fair. Then I encountered pages with missing text. I expect that sort of sloppiness with fanzines and vanity presses. I was so disappointed that I requested and received a refund. Now I don't plan on paying for another ebook for a while.

With a paper book, I can pick it up, page through it, and feel its value. With ebooks, I have to trust the publisher to provide me a professional product. I can't actually page through it and see for myself. In the case of Storm Front, the free sample I downloaded first didn't include the pages with missing text. In the case of Heart of Darkness, I didn't find the extended material worth $8.99. Like in the Kindle, the included extra images were pitifully small and lores for such a gorgeous graphics device. For me, the trust has been broken.

In my opinion, if publishers are going to charge trade paperback prices, I expect cover art I can admire (iBooks only shows cover art in thumbnail view), and professional typesetting. There is much I like about the iBooks app such as its classy layout, slick navigation features, bookmarking, and especially page numbers with real world meaning unlike the bizarre method the Kindle uses. However, if buying an ebook is a crap shoot, what good is convenience if the product is premium priced for disposable quality?

Soon the reality of the Top 20 economy in the iBooks store will begin to impress itself upon the independent publishers. They'll grow tired of being squeezed out of premium placement while also competing against the entire free Project Gutenberg collection of classics. They'll start dropping their prices to compete with the big boys who pay for "Featured" status in order to stand a chance at making the Top 20. This process is well established on the iPhone app store and has begun to happen on the iPad app store.

It's not hard to imagine that the Top 20 will be filled with $.99 books one day soon, but will any of them be worth reading? I have no idea, but at that price I'd be willing to take a chance. At $9.99 I'll keep my wallet shut tight.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing on Hold a Bit

(cc) Douglas Cootey


Looks like our trip to Logan, Utah on Sunday pushed the steering wheel column on our Minivan past the point of the mountain. Severe leaking, no response—it's a metaphor for life.

Lately I've been pushing myself to write ADDaboy! for HealthyPlace and have been finding myself wasted just to meet the challenge. I really thought this would be a good stretch for me, and it is, but it wasn't meant to be the only thing I was working on. I''m trying to implement some changes to allow for writing time. I'm trying to finish the two articles on the weekend before they are due so I have an entire week to do nothing but write in my novel.

I'm spinning my wheels instead. 

I am indeed finishing the articles early, but I spend the first few days of the week unable to do anything beyond Daddy Duty. Today is the first day I'm almost/kinda/sorta able to write and I'm doing it here instead. Did I ever mention I have ADHD? You may have noticed…

Ah, there's the door. The Leprechaun is home from school. Soon the Goblin will follow. My writing window just closed for the moment. I have a science project to help polish up, cleaning to do, and a dance studio to drop the Elf & Pixie off at. 


Update: Reference to ADDitude Magazine was the addled musing of a distracted mind. It has been corrected.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

New Week. New Beginning

I'm heading through mountain roads outside Logan, Utah after a day spent with family, and I'm feeling pretty good. The girls are listening to Rascal Flatts off an iPod and I've stopped ticking—leaving me free to write and think. I already did my part driving by getting us here in time for my nephew's blessing. It's my wife's turn now to take us leisurely home.

The week ahead will pick up pace just as soon as we step through the front door. For now I'm happy to enjoy the scenery despite the overcast, gray sky. Snow covers the mountains in patches, reminding me that Winter has yet to release its grasp on the weather.

As I reflect on my past week, I ponder on the hold my old problems have on my life. I wonder what I could have done differently. How could I have better used my time? My sleep schedule has flipped around again and I have been spending more time ticking than typing. Any productive writing time I have is spent on ADDaboy! My novel remains undisturbed and unfinished.

Fortunately, I see new weeks as new beginnings. Seven beautifully blank days lie open before me. One should learn from the past, not be ruled by it.

So this week I reclaim my sleep schedule, recommit to my Splintered Books project, and figure out how to write even if I'm ticking. It might be a touch difficult to type if my hands are flailing about, but otherwise I'm sure I can manage it if I have high enough motivation.

Wish me luck.
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