Friday, February 27, 2015

Finding flow with ADD


As a writer with ADD, I already have an uphill battle: quieting my mind long enough to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is rather like running an obstacle course while spectators throw things at me. I sit down, shut down my Facebook feed, think about how to phrase a thought and BAM! a (figurative) tomato smacks me in the head. Two minutes later, I'm settling into my sentences and KAPOW! Silly String lands on my fingers. Writing with ADD is a series of beginnings, like driving down a busy street and following a bus with stops on every corner. If you know me, you know I don't like stopping on every corner. In fact, I go out of my way NOT to stop at every corner. I know every back road in town so that I can avoid frequent stops. You can imagine my frustration when trying to write.

Folks with ADD are sometimes blessed with hyper (or deep) attention. My husband can do this. He can tune out everything so much that I can stand in front of him and say his name five times before he looks up from an article on his iPad. I rarely reach this state, this bliss of what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow." That isn't to say I've never experienced flow (or what athletes call The Zone). I just don't experience it often. My brain never shuts up!

Add to this equation, if you will, children. My daughter will draw or read or make jewelry while I putter around. My son - on the other hand - is an external processor. Everything he thinks, he verbalizes. And if my husband or I don't respond immediately, he isn't deterred or frustrated. He just keeps saying our names or repeats his observation/question/anecdote/joke/song until he receives acknowledgement.

Writer friends of mine have shared writing strategies with me in the past, highlighting how they have been able to write every day, or twice a week, or every Sunday. These include: shutting the door, asking your spouse/partner to be in charge for the day, wearing a string around your neck as a sign that means you cannot be disturbed, going to a park/coffee shop/library for the day, writing after the kids have gone to bed. I have tried some of these strategies with moderate success. But people with ADD struggle to make any routine stick. We get bored easily, so saying I'm going to write from 5:30-7:30 a.m. every morning is much easier to say than to do.

In a surprise turn of events last night, I decided to a.) write a poem, b.) write on the couch in the family room while my family was home and milling about, and c.) worked on it while my son curled up beside me with a book and shared my afghan. I'm pleased to say . . . it worked! So maybe the lesson here for writers of the ADD persuasion is this:

Write when and where you can.

Can it really be as simple as that?

If you'd like to learn more about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the idea of "flow," check out his TED talk.