Tag Archives: ADD

Left-brain, Right-brain Activity: Woes of an ADD writer

9 Oct

My husband can work on one task at a time. When he’s finished, he can sleep.

If I’ve ever coveted anything, it’s mastery of those two skills. Okay, forget mastery. I’ll take novice level. Apprentice, even.

I don’t think I’ve had a good, non-Nyquil-induced sleep in years. My brain simply cannot SHUT UP. At the end of every day, after we settle into the big comfy bed and turn out the lights, my husband sighs and whispers a sleepy, “Good ni—” and he’s down for the count.

At which time, my brain goes into hyper drive.

Hey, we gotta check on the kids.

We checked on them last night. They’re fine.

(NOTE: as far as you know, this wasn’t my attitude toward my real kids. As far as you know, they’re both well-adjusted, perfectly functional young men.)

On cue, we embark on the nightly tour. You might ask who “we” are, but to explain that, I’d have to take you with me, into the writer’s brain. Sure, it can be scary, but fun—like riding a roller coaster through a dark cave. I can promise you there’s a way out, but I cannot promise you’ll be able to un-see anything in there. This is your chance to click that red X in the top right corner…

And in we go…

So, like normal people, I have right and left brain hemispheres, analytics on the left and creativity on the right. Unlike normal people, the split here is not 50/50, but more like 90/10.

Do Not Enter

Not safe for man nor beast

That’s why, if you were to walk into my brain, the first area you’d encounter would be the hall closet of analytics. Open that door only if you enjoy being bored to tears, because it is stuffed to overflowing with everything not creative—shopping lists, driving tips, logical eating patterns, awareness of gravity, friends, siblings, birthdays, toothpaste, time, and laundry. At the bottom of the pile, beneath boxes and bags of forgotten skills like dusting and parent/teacher communication, lies a crumpled page of moldy pulp that used to be math, which will never be retrieved, and even if it were, could never be restored.

I highly recommend you close that door immediately. I don’t go in there if I can avoid it.

Instead, I invite you to turn around and look at the Great Hall. The giant table in the center is cluttered with delicious looking snips and chunks of my current project, a true story with the working title, “From the Remnants.” (More on that in a later blog.) At every place setting is a minion typing madly, transcribing hours of interview recording. Around the room, professors sit at easels examining order, chapter length, dialogue, setting, and pace. Very exciting stuff here.

Open the first door off the hall carefully, so you don’t send the imps scampering. This is the novel idea room, where characters are being created at a rapid pace. Fourteen, last I checked. Just from the doorway you can see Wilhelm, the depressed store manager; Earl, the blissfully ignorant cart-return dude; Shelly, who has a Master’s in Bioengineering yet works the customer service desk; Angus the Semi driver, and a cast of store customers with…shall we say…issues? I can’t tell you the working title of this book because it’s kinda neat and I’d hate to see it pop up before I finish the story.

The next door opens to the study, where serious work is unfolding. Lots of reading, cataloging, interviewing, and heavy sighing. Here’s my mom’s story, currently called “Withered Rose.” Please keep your voice to a whisper here.

The main bedroom upstairs has been cleared out. Perhaps that’s why I don’t sleep. I’m making room here for an incoming project I want very much to do. I may put a guest up here for a while, because the rest of the house is so crowded.

The two spare rooms are piled high with anticipation. Here’s where I keep the job bids I’ve submitted, which are in the “We’ll get back to you” phase. I’m starting to think they won’t pan out, but I’m ready, just in case. Off to the side is a small powder room, where I’m stashing my commitment to write a memoir in the Feb/March time frame.

At the back of the house are two small, lonely rooms I rarely enter. In one, my teenage runaway sits on the edge of her bed, waiting for me to visit so she can pour out her story. I know her story better than anyone’s, and I know how desperately she needs my company. I feel her slipping through my hands and during my night rounds I press my head lovingly to her door, willing her to stay with me just a bit longer.

The other is my parable parlor, which resembles a dentist waiting area. Magazines and patients strewn everywhere. I know the patients well. They’ve taken me to the edge of a completed manuscript and now they sit, waiting for me to sift, edit, and compile them into a short-story bundle called “Perfect Parent.”

Finally, there’s the sun porch, my favorite place to hang out after I complete my rounds. It’s quiet, dark…serene. I open the French doors and settle on the chaise lounge with a glass of wine to watch the parade. Field mice ideas, raccoon visions, a young doe or two of possibility. I watch them play and wonder what they’ll be when they grow up, or if they’ll grow up. I try to catch every snippet of character and delight in them while I can.

Smiling, relaxed, I finally drift off to sleep.

…Just as my husband wakes and starts getting ready for work. Field mice and minions scamper for the hills. It’s going to take a lot of cheese and hyper focus to coax them back into the house.


Sure, it’s a planter, but wouldn’t that be helpful?

No sense telling him about my night. He can see it under my eyes. Besides, he has a 90% left-brain walk-in closet filled with neatly stacked mathematical formulas and teaspoon-to-gallon conversion charts. He wouldn’t understand.

I begin another day, tired, but happy, trekking to the Great Room with an oversized mug of steaming coffee. Time to get typing.

Can I get an ADD amen?


In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. — John 14:2-3


Christmas Year-round

October’s “Keep Christmas Alive” tip is to go shopping, but for someone else. Someone you don’t know. Sadly, if you envision a person of any age and any size and outfit that person with hat, coat, boots and gloves, when the time comes around to buy for the Angel Tree near you, there will be a person in need who fits that size. Or play it safe and purchase a few toys. The selections are better now than they will be in December, and you won’t have to add that to your “to do” list when the crowds are out in full force.

My Ship Will Float, as Long as I’m Listing

4 May

I have a love/resent relationship with lists. I love them because they keep me on track—help me prioritize. Without lists I’d fall completely apart, and I’d have to change my standard salutation to “I’m so sorry…”

The resent side I’ll explain later.

Scattered through my home are myriad notebook pages, index cards, junk mail envelopes, and napkins, all bescrawled (sure, it’s a word) with reminders. I carry some from room to room as I work; others are actually filed. Filing is on my Saturday list.

Of all my memos, the most important is my daily “Priorities” list. I start this at the beginning of every week, optimistically attaching a huge “Monday” label to the top, which I then replace with a smaller “Tuesday,” and an apologetic-looking “Wednesday” as the week progresses. By Thursday, I usually have to start over because I’ve added and crossed off too much to make sense of it any more. I’ve never crossed off everything on the list. Well, I could, technically, so let’s say instead that I’ve never actually completed every task on a list.

Aside from my daily list, I keep lists of tasks other family members have to accomplish…particularly my teenager, whose most common query response is, “Sorry, I forgot.” This paper is usually left on the kitchen table so it can be easily spotted by said teenager. Somehow though, it often disappears.

Then there’s the “Some Day” list, which consists of all my promises to myself and others that I truly intend to get to, but…well, you know. This list survives on the premise that one day I’ll get to the end of my daily list and wonder what I should do next. Research phone plans? Make an eye appointment to see whether I need glasses? Visit that web page someone told me about? Spray the couch with fabric guard before it’s—what? That thing is five years old? Well then, I can cross that off the list. The good thing about the Some Day list is it kinda self-regulates that way.

I keep my Prayer List in a prominent place on a neon yellow card. Those of you with ADD know that a neon yellow card will not be ignored. I try to look at a different name each time the card catches my eye. Most days, I get through the entire list. If you’ve asked me to pray for you, know that I’m praying for you.

My “books I want to read” list gets longer every day. I rarely update this because I like remembering those I did read, and I jot notes beside them: Unbroken—highly recommend! Brave New World—good read but disturbing; Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love—not for me, thank you. (Which reminds me to ask you: I’m always looking for humorous books, and I’m SO often disappointed because humor requires more than a funny title…what hilarious books have you read lately?)

And yes, of course I have a bucket list. At the top is my hope to go a week without my lists. Just below that is the experience of seeing my book on a store shelf—and not because I put it there…

I also have lists of blog ideas, short-story ideas, potential publishers and magazines I’d like to check out, birthdays (a list I always seem to look at after someone’s birthday), quotes that touched me, and dogs I’d consider adopting when I one day move to a house with a huge back yard…I don’t think you should tell my husband I’m keeping that list.

So, what’s the down side of keeping lists? For one thing, I become dependent on a piece of paper I cannot always find. For another, it’s difficult to bend when a new item wants to not only work its way onto the list, but be seated at the top. And finally, some days I wonder whether I’m using the lists or they’re using me.

This past week was particularly busy, with my husband leaving for a trip that required some administrative and logistical assistance; a neighbor who left town and asked me to feed and walk her dog; a teen staring at SOL tests for which he’s woefully unprepared; doctor’s appointments; funky car noises that must be addressed; oh, and I work.

Interestingly, to me anyway, I felt peace as I worked through the lists. I was busy, and tired at the end of each day, but at peace. It was, dare I say, a fun challenge.

List of tasks

Sometimes you just have to walk away from the list…

With obsessive focus and a lot of prayer, I made it until Thursday before my ship started listing (see what I did there?). Then a sweet friend reminded me about something that should have been on my list but wasn’t, which needed to be done that day. As she was talking to me, I remembered I hadn’t picked up my son’s completed physical form from the base clinic, and that they’d said they would hold it only 10 days. I tried to focus on her words as my brain tried to calculate whether this was day 9 or 10. ADD will not let go at times like this. Nor will that voice that tells me I’ll never get it right. I went to my car and allowed myself a brief sob.

My sobs turned to prayer, as they often do, and I prayed for the peace I’d felt at the beginning of the week. Immediately I thought of my friend and former boss, Carrie. One reason I love her is because whenever someone pointed out a mistake her editors might have made, she’d respond with, “and how many words did they get right?”

She gets it. Instead of focusing on the …wait while I add ‘em up…FORTY-SEVEN tasks, responsibilities, and promises I made good on, I let myself melt into a woe-is-me puddle of self-proclaimed inadequacy over two I’d forgotten. In reality, I’m doing pretty darned well, thank you very much.

Long story short, it was day 9, and I did get the task accomplished, but not before accepting that none of us will ever get everything done. When I shed this temple and start on my Kick the Bucket list, I will leave behind many uncompleted tasks. As long as everything I do here, I do for the King, I’m doing just fine.

Ha. The devil thought he had my number…but it’s unlisted.


“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” 

–Colossians 3:24


May’s Christmas Year-round Suggestion

Invite a neighbor or two to your home for an evening, particularly some you don’t know. An evening can be so much more relaxing when it’s not one of many seasonal engagements. I recommend you nix the eggnog, however.

Real Freelancers Don’t Wear Flannel: ADD and Other Time-sucking Distractions

24 Apr

I’m learning some valuable lessons about working from home.

First and foremost, it’s nothing like the pictures in the brochures.

You know what I mean, all those things we imagined back when we were thinking about quitting that Day Job to start our own business—hanging out in pjs and slippers, tossing down the bon-bons and sipping from a glass of Chateau Morrisette’s Sweet Mountain Laurel while somehow creating reams upon reams of productivity every day.

Well I’m here today to tell you, that’s all rather bunk-ish.

Thinking of taking the leap? It’s not for the faint-hearted, my friends. And by faint-hearted I mean people who like to eat…anything other than Ramen noodles. Right off the bat I can tell you that bon-bons and Sweet Mountain Laurel are NOT in the budget. Nor are they conducive to prolific prose (although I do believe that some of my greatest work was—no, never mind…I just re-read it).

Sadly, I realized almost from Day One that the pajamas would have to go. It’s difficult to take work seriously when dressed in flannel strawberries. Also, there seems to be some strange subliminal connection between pajamas and sleeping that makes it impossible to stay awake for any great length of time. In fact, the first reams of production that this writer produced consisted of 24 forehead-induced pages of the letter “h,” in seemingly endless rows. When I awoke and tried to read it, my first thought was, “How cool, church pews!”

And, of course, to keep you from breaking away to type a bunch of “h” rows on your computer, I shall provide:


And then, of course, I had to type 25 other letter rows to be sure the “h” has the coolest character. I decided the “m” is rather intriguing as well, because it looked like something I could fall asleep on…


…which brings me to the second giant oak tree of a barrier that has fallen across the road ahead of me: Attention Deficit Disorder.

I’m learning that I will break for anything.

  • I break to watch the cat bathe. It’s mesmerizing how he can move his leg like that. I can verify that it’s not a feat humans should attempt to replicate because I gave it a shot (ADD at its finest moment) and nearly had to call 911. Fortunately, I was in my pajamas so I just slept it off until my limbs unfolded.
  • I break to check my blog traffic…every fifteen minutes. (By the way, whoever you are in Brazil, boa tarde and thanks for noticing me. Your visits make me feel like an international star!) Watching blog stats can be addicting if you aren’t careful. Every time someone views my pages, I know it. Sadly, that’s all I know: someone was there. I just wish the data could tell me if you read it all, if you liked it, if you hated it, if I made you giggle at least once, and if right now you ‘re lifting my words for some motivational poster that’s going to come to me on the next social media mass-mailing, or worse, to be used in a class on how NOT to write. For the most part, checking stats makes me smile. Plus, I’m still so new at this blog thing that every time someone “shares” a post rather than just “like” it, I do a grateful little happy dance, which, for someone with ADD, could also lead to a 911 call.
  • Even the food mocks me

    You Rack Diciprine!

    I break for food. Sometimes when I’m not at all hungry. The fridge has a telepathic ability to serenade me from the kitchen, and, as with any other earworm, I cannot get its song out of my head. The avocado will go bad in three minutes if you don’t eat it! …Chicken, I got some chicken heah! And the worst: Ahh, sweet, velvety chocolate; Easter is over, you can’t leave this stuff lying around!

  • I break for email. Even e-mail from stranded Sudanese princes who need to put millions in my bank account to protect it from Somali pirates.

OK, that last isn’t true. Everyone knows even the Somali pirates have my account numbers.

My point is, I still haven’t mastered the art of what I’ve heard writer (and probably quip-lifter) Alton Gansky call “butt-in-seat” focus. I’m averaging about five hours of real writing each day.

On the helpful side, I’m fortunate in that my current project, Joe’s story, still fascinates me, and that some days he’s my greatest distraction—I really want to see how this book is going to end. I keep the pages open on my computer so whenever I DO untangle myself and sit down, I’m immediately drawn into them and start typing.


  • Get dressed: check.
  • Turn off the computer sound, so the email ding doesn’t: check.
  • Keep sitting back down: check.

I’m sure there are many other words of wisdom my fellow ADD freelancers can share that will help us all up our game. Care to share? We’re all ears…what are your tricks for keeping at it?

(Ha! I just realized how mean that question is. I’ll understand if you don’t answer…but you can’t not, can you?)