You Can’t Blame It On Your ADD

Okay, first I’ll tell you that I’m highly qualified. I am a licensed mechanic …OOPS…wrong blog. I’m actually a certified teacher and administrator for special needs youth. In reality I’ve worked with special needs children and my own ADD children all of my life. If you have attention deficit disorder it might be harder to write than the average bear, but you actually can be an excellent writer if you can just get yourself organized. That dirty little O word you hate to hear.

You probably consider yourself a pantser as a writer and are proud of the fact that you can just sit down and write your heart out without any organizational tool to get you going. How does that work for you so far? Are you spending way more time in rewrites than you think you should? Does your writing make perfect sense to you but confuse someone else? Does your writing show up on paper as something different than your imagination told you to write down? Then read on.

It’s very fresh in my mind what a struggle it was to help my son edit his doctoral thesis with his ADD adult brain. He made so much more work for himself because of his ADD and at first he wasn’t open to structural suggestions. Eventually it got better, but by then he had spun his wheels for several semesters just trying to focus more precisely and be more open to structure. Try using these tools the next time you sit down to write something and see if they don’t help you a little bit.

  • Begin your work with the end goal in mind. This will help you immensely; if you can just keep refocusing on that end goal to keep yourself from straying into the many interesting avenues you’ll see along the way. Yes, that article in quantum physics is interesting but has nothing to do with your topic of novel structure. Yes, that TED talk would be so fascinating but bookmark it for later.
  • Start small. Set a goal to do something small very well, instead of doing something huge just well enough. Get feedback from someone who won’t spare your feelings on this small thing you’ve accomplished before you move on to bigger things. Start with one chapter, so you don’t end up with a whole thesis, book etc. that only you can understand.
  • Get one critique partner early along your journey who understands your ADD and can help you maintain that focus as well as watch for the specific traits in the writing of people with ADD. Otherwise you will waste a lot of your time and eventually someone else’s.
  • Be an open listener. You may be an adult, but that doesn’t mean that someone else’s insight isn’t important for you to listen to so you can achieve that goal. Whether your goal is a term paper, a thesis, a novel, or a short story the journey for you will be a little bit harder than for the average bear.
  • Use some simple tools like index cards instead of that distracting electronic database that you think is just so much fun. That electronic database may be the biggest distraction you face because you’ll never get it exactly where you want it. For you some old-fashioned index cards may get the job done a whole lot more efficiently. Then build your database when you’re further along the road; you may need it sometime.
  • Take the time to at least set up folders, binders, or whatever you need for your hands on resources while you write. Because of your attention difficulties you will not be able to keep up with the massive amount of web surfing you will do and you will quickly lose the location of that great reference you needed so desperately. Write everything down right away because your brain may not be able to remember it when you need it.
  • Please read Scattered, by Gabor Mate, M.D. My dog-eared copy has been my best reference since I discovered Dr. Mate. He writes as someone who experiences ADD. He is insightful and compassionate. He will help you understand your brain and he will give you hope. To paraphrase him, his powers of creative expression would have been better expressed much sooner except for “…disorganization, driven ness, distractibility, lack of persistence, forgetfulness, and periods of psychic lethargy.” One of the best books I’ve ever owned, personally and professionally.

I was so proud of my son when he finished his doctorate and I knew how hard he worked and how many hours he put into it. I wish he been more open to feedback early in the game; it really took a lot longer than it should have for him. Once he developed some insight into his stumbling blocks, he wrote like gangbusters and got that thesis knocked out and then did great with his orals exams. We call him Doctor Howard now; not really, we usually call him booboo bear.


Good luck with your writing!

You can’t blame it on your ADD.



Five Rules For Grabbing the Gab With Your Kids

Parents complain that their kids stop talking to them at a certain age, usually tweens and teens. These five rules will help you keep the conversation going:

  1. Respond to information they tell you without being judgmental, watch your tone of voice and your facial expression. Sally just told you her fifteen year old friend had sex last night – your job is to keep a blank expression, nod, and let her tell you what she thinks. Reserve the lectures for another time!
  2. Respond to any conversation your child starts no matter when or where it is or how inconvenient it is for you. Teenagers get the urge to share information – that passes very quickly to another person if you are not available. Available means actively listening with your whole being. Matthew will tell you about his new crush or he’ll go tell a friend instead. You may not get a second chance to listen to what’s on his mind right now.
  3. Put your own agenda aside. Kids hate lectures and if you are talking, it is probably a lecture to them.  Consider yourself to be floating with them down a current that they control, fighting it will only result in your drowning!
  4. Seize the moment!  The best conversations with teens happen in cars or in passing. Somehow, sharing important news is often easier for them to do when they are not facing you.
  5. Lower your expectations. Kids are internalizing a lot at this age and just don’t need to share as much information with you any more. If you follow the first four rules, they will share the important stuff!

May I Have Your Attention Please?

“May I have your attention please?” started my official day as school principal for many years. It’s not like I thought anybody, especially the kids, would hang on my every word even if they could hear over the normal chatter and the hustle and bustle of the beginning of the school day.  When your your child tells you, ” I didn’t hear the announcement!” believe him. There are legitimate reasons they don’t hear that important announcement telling them band practice is cancelled or the baseball game has been moved to another location and it’s the last day to reserve a yearbook.

Every morning as principal, I pulled an assortment of papers of all shapes, sizes and colors, and legibility from a magnet near the public address system., which was in a well traveled hallway, not in a nice little office somewhere. The quality of my announcements was then directly related to the scribbling on those papers, often thrust into my hand as announcements were being made.  Rydell’s principal McGee on Grease and her “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter,” is a classic. And, yeah, the quality of PA systems in schools is usually great if you are standing in the same room!

Now, once announcements are started, many things could possibly happen to keep my voice from reaching your child’s ear.  It’s quite likely that the cute girl two rows over or last night’s homework being hurriedly scribbled will take priority over my melodic voice. And, unbelievably, some teachers can’t keep kids quiet for five minutes, or simply don’t care to. Your child’s twirling brain has 15 friends, personal appearance concerns, overdue assignments, soccer practice and the fight she had with her brother at breakfast twirling through her brain!

So, cut your kid some slack if they didn’t hear the announcement and you can’t find the baseball field, band practice or your sanity! I promise it’s a legit excuse.  But, just FYI, announcements are NEVER the only way kids get the info!