The ADHD Guide to Building a Writing Habit

Those of us with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have a bit of difficulty when it comes to sitting down to write. We read the articles on finding our voice, but the act of writing, the actual moving of our fingers across a keyboard or our pen across the page, can seem impossible.

The ADHD Guide to Building a Writing Habit

We get distracted. We get discouraged. We self-sabotage. At the end of the day the screen is a blank page, the pencils haven’t been touched and we wonder how to just get the words on the page like everyone else does.

This article will show you how to finally get past the resistance that our ADHD puts up and actually use it to get a writing habit locked in.

Take out the trash

First, let’s start with a clean slate when it comes to our writing or lack thereof. Sure, you can say, “Why did I waste all the time sorting my socks when I could have written the next great spy thriller?” Let’s just move past that. Shake the Etch-a-Sketch. Hit reset. We are starting over today. We aren’t going to swim in a sea of regret about what we did or didn’t do. Today you’re a writer.

Identify the fear

Our ADHD will kick into hyperdrive at times when we try something new. Sure, we are impulsive. We go to Target for four things and come back with twenty. But when it comes to the act of writing we start feeling this clutch of fear.

What if everyone hates it? What if it’s not original? What if … what if …what if… Our ADHD just won’t let it go and once you’re ADHD latches on to something, it’s going to keep playing that tape over and over.

To get that condemning voice out of my head, I simply confront it. What if everyone hates it? Well, I probably learned how to write or how not to write along the way. What if it’s not original?

See that mystery section over there? In that mystery section, in nearly every book, someone dies, no one can figure out who did it, then someone figures out who did it and then there’s a big conflict to see if they get caught.

So yeah, there’s not much out there that’s original and some of those books sell millions upon millions. Once I answer the fear, it quiets down.

Want a FREE copy of Ryan’s book, Conquering the Calendar and Getting Things Done? Grab your copy here.

Kill the distractions

Distractions are the arch-enemy to our writing life. Especially with being ADHD, any shiny objects in our field of vision get us off our writing game. We check Facebook and Twitter and down the terrible rabbit hole we go.

Make a conscious decision to turn off your wifi and power down your phone. Yes, power it down. Unless you are a brain surgeon on call, you’ll be fine for the 1/2 hour or hour that you’re writing. Yes, no one will be able to reach you — and I get that can cause anxiety, but you’ll feel a great increase in your focus.

(If someone has to reach you, put your phone on vibrate and turn off wifi. I’ll actually delete apps that I can get lost in.)

Set up the writing space

Did you ever try to write while lying on your bed? Fell asleep, didn’t you? Did you write in your kitchen? I’m sure you fixed twenty snacks. Our ADHD brains latch on to location to tell us what is going to happen. We sleep in a bed. We eat in a kitchen.

So what I had to do was only write in two places: a desk in my house and a coffee shop. When I sit down in those spaces, my brain will say, “THIS IS WHERE WE WRITE! I KNOW THIS PLACE!” Since I’ve developed the habit of sitting there over and over, my brain resists less and less and I get more and more writing done.

Decide where you are going to write. Make it comfortable (but not too comfortable) and make it your sacred writing space.

Pack Your bag

Your ADHD will not remind you to bring your charger or your pens. It will not remind you to bring that article or your research. There is nothing more frustrating than starting your writing and not having your tools available.

One of my mentors told me to pack a “writing bag.” A writing bag has all of your equipment for writing: computer, charger, pens, paper, notes, research, etc. I also carry an extra external battery for my phone, postcards and stamps.

And one of the best moves I made was buying another charger for my computer. One is marked with Sharpie: RYAN — HOME and the other RYAN — BAG. It’s a little extra to have an extra charger, but it’s worth it to not have your computer on 3% just as you are hitting your stride.

Also, you want to pack this bag the night before you write. You are thinking more clearly and you are not rushing out of the door. You are more apt to remember what you need to bring when you’re not itching to get to writing.

Set micro-goals

I coach a lot of beginner writers and they will say, “Well, I’m shooting for 10,000 words this week.” I’ll ask, “Have you ever written 1,000 words in a week?” “Well, no, but I figure I can just sit down and do it.”

Oh, that’s when I LOL and then ROTL.

So adorbs.

If you wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t give it a shot the day of the race. You’d train. You’d take small steps to get there and practice a long obedience in the same direction. It’s the same with writing.

I recommend that you sit down and attempt 250 words and sit there for at least an hour. If you get your 250 done and want to go longer, great. If you can’t get 250 words out, but you sit there for an hour, perfect. But you have to complete one or the other: 250 or an hour.

Every day just crank out 250 words. If you can do more, great. If not that’s fine. The following week, add 50 words. Make it 300. Then the following week, 350. You get it. You’ll be making strides quicker than trying to get it all done

Create a reward system

Who doesn’t like a trophy? Am I right?

When you hit a writing goal, whether it is 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 words, have a reward ready. Maybe go to a movie. Maybe you buy yourself a set of LEGOS or a some books that have been sitting in your Amazon wish list for a long time.

Whatever it is, make sure it’s valuable and a bit healthy (if your reward is three Milky Way bars, that’s not going to be great for anyone.)

Pull the trigger

By developing a habit you won’t have to push yourself to get your writing done. It will start to become a natural part of your day and the actual joy of writing will happen. Your ADHD won’t keep you from writing, in fact, it will encourage it because you’ve removed the obstacles and built in a reward system.

Give it a go. And I’m curious…

Have you discovered any tricks for overcoming distractions to write? Share in the comments.

Ryan McRae is the founder of The ADHD Nerd, a blog dedicated to helping people with ADHD be more productive, focused and happy. He has spoken all over the world, including Afghanistan. He is an Apple fanatic, voracious reader and lover of things pumpkin flavored. Get a copy of his FREE book , Conquering the Calendar and Getting Things Done.

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