I don’t know about you, but I often find myself thinking that writing is a “serious business” and that I should be doing it a particular way– the way some famous author or my MFA professors told me. The problem is most of that advice wasn’t created for or by people like me. So when my neurodiverse (ND) brain tries to follow that advice, it’s more than frustrating: my inner critic joins a ménage à trois with my demand avoidance and rejection sensitivity disorder.
Lately, I’ve been wondering, “Where’s the writing advice for someone like me?” Where are the writing tips for people who struggle with executive dysfunction? Sequencing? Impulsivity?
Almighty Google didn’t have much to offer in terms of answers. So, in case anyone else out there is struggling too, I decided to create my own.
5 Tips for Neurodiverse Writers
Embrace the Chaos
Neurodiverse brains tend to struggle with sequencing and linear thinking. Putting plot events and chapters in order isn’t likely to be our strong suit. Instead of fighting it, accept the fact that your process (and, most likely, the first draft of your book) is going to be gloriously messy. You can always go back and “fix things” later during the editing process. Forcing yourself to write things “in order” is a recipe for ND writer’s block.
Follow Your Joy
People with ADHD and autism are frequently told that their tendency to hyperfocus is detrimental (often by well-intended neurotypicals (NTs) who insist we need to just “suck it up and do the things you don’t want to do!”) This is bad advice for ND’s – especially when it comes to writing.
Many autistics and ADHDers struggle with task/demand avoidance. When a task becomes stressful or mandatory, it becomes overwhelming and we completely shut down. The stress can become so severe that it can lead to meltdowns or panic attacks – something I’ve experienced personally. Trust me: you don’t want the mere sight of a blank Word doc to leave you sweating, shaking, and struggling to breathe.
All of this circles back to the false idea that there’s a “right” way to write. There isn’t.
Instead of forcing yourself to write scenes that feel overwhelming, write the fun scenes first. Allow your imagination to wander (since it will anyway), then hyperfocus on what’s interesting! This can help keep you motivated and reduce the temptation to wander off or give up.
Channel your hyperfocus into the superpower you’ve always known it could be. 🙂
Get Your Fidget On
A tired piece of NT writing advice many of us have heard is, “Sit your ass in the chair and write!” But, unless you’re lost in the throes of hyperfocus, this isn’t always possible for ND’s. We’re wired differently. Our brains NEED our bodies to move; it’s how we process things.
Instead of sitting your butt serenely in a chair, try a standing desk. Or, if you need to sit, try sensory boxes, a bouncy chair band, or a desk cycle. A wobble chair is also a great option. Better yet, download a voice-to-text app so you can move and work hands free. I promise you: it still counts as writing. 🙂
KISS: Keep It Short, Sugar
Let’s be honest: marathon sessions of anything (outside of our special interests) aren’t exactly most ND’s strong suits. Keeping writing sessions short and timed can help keep them from feeling impossible. I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo’s word sprints. If I have to write for a longer period of time, the Pomodoro Method is my strategy of choice.
Get Doped Up
ADHD and autistic brains crave dopamine. Some research suggests that the neurotransmitters in our brains don’t process dopamine as effectively as NT brains—which why we engage in behaviors like stimming and struggle with impulse control.
Rather than fighting our need for dopamine, we can use it as motivation. Reward yourself when you meet your daily writing goal! Play a video game. Devour some dark chocolate or another snack that’s rich in dopamine. If you’re more intrinsically motivated, try signing up for WattPad. There’s nothing like getting positive feedback on writing that you’re proud of.
This list is not an end-all, be-all, but I hope it’s a beginning. Have additional suggestions? Leave them in the comments! I’d love to hear from you, because we need diverse books — and that includes neurodiversity.
#WNDB #NeurodiverseSquad #Writing