Monday, November 14, 2016

Tuesday Talk - Writing with ADD

Today Pink Heart Society columnist Jeannie Watt talks about writing with ADD. 

During the 2015 RWA National Conference, I was part of a panel discussion on writing with Attention Deficit Disorder. It was a freeing experience, because I had, in essence, found my people. I discovered that I was not alone in my struggles and, in some ways, ADD has helped me be more productive. 

My first finished project, which
still sits proudly on my mom's sofa.
A little background--I was the kid who couldn't sit still in class while the teacher gave a lesson. The kid who never knew what was going on after the assignment was given. I started a lot of projects, but didn't finish one that required any kind of time investment until I was sixteen--with the exception of my 4-H projects, which were overseen by adults. I was a self-starter, but not a self-finisher.

Beginnings are easy for me. Between the time I started writing, while still in high school, and being published many, many years later, I must have started at least thirty books. Maybe more. I'd start writing, roll along for three or four chapters, hit the hard part, then get distracted by a shinier, "better" idea. I'd tuck away the current work in progress and start writing the new story. Guess how far that got me in my publishing career?

80,000 words--more than my brain 
wants to think about, but doable in
small segments.
The way I finally finished a complete manuscript was by pretending chapters four through six were a new story. I set aside chapters one through three and wrote as if I was doing another of my easy beginnings. It worked. I applied the technique to chapters six through nine. Success!

Since that time, I have broken my work down into manageable chunks, which are not nearly as intimidating to my easily distracted brain as a contracted manuscript of 85,000 words. If I finish a chunk, and I'm not on crazy deadline, I allow myself to work on another project--the shiny new idea playing at the corner of my brain. But..and this is a big but...I do not get to work on this project full time until my current project is done. 

The beauty of this is that I have a great start on a new project by the time I've finished the old one. I apply the small-chunk method to other areas of my life when a task seems overwhelming--I fold only five pieces of the mountain of clean laundry. I put away five dishes from the dishwasher. I dust three shelves instead of twenty. The tasks get done, but my brain doesn't explode in the process.

The biggest thing I learned from being part of the ADD panel is that there are many successful writers out there battling ADD and general distractability.  To be honest, I take so many breaks that sometimes I wonder how I get books written, but I do--usually five or six a year on top of working a full-time job. It may not be easy to come up with strategies that work, but it is doable. For me the turning point was coming to understanding that I work differently than a lot of other writers, just as I'd worked differently from a lot of other students--after I figured out what the assignment was, of course.

Jeannie Watt writes fast-paced contemporary western romances. She makes her home in Montana where she stares out across alfalfa fields to the mountains beyond when she really should be writing. *smile* To find out more about Jeannie and her books, please visit her website or her Facebook profile page, which sees a lot more action than her author page.

Her latest book, Molly's Mr. Wrong, releases in January 2017 and is available for pre-order now. 

They're both learning from scratch 
Molly Adamson has moved back to the place that made her happiest: Eagle Valley, Montana. Teaching college English classes is also a fresh start…even if he's one of her students. Finn Culver. Athlete, heartthrob, homecoming date. After that disastrous night all those years ago, Molly never wanted to see Finn, now a handsome military veteran, again. But as she gets to know him through his writing, helping him conquer an undiagnosed learning disability, Molly sees much more than the swaggering charmer. Both teacher and student will learn a lot about love, and each other, if they can let the past go…

1 comment:

  1. That's a great idea for any kind of project, to break it down into chunks so it's not so overwhelming. Also, just wanted to say your new book has such a cute cover, I love that she has glasses and a pompom on her hat, it makes her seem like a down-to-earth girl I'd want to read about.