The Friday Muse – Writing With ADHD


Living with ADHD is not easy. For those who don’t know what ADHD is, it is Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s a bit different from ADD in that it creates hyperactive tendencies on top of a difficult time focusing. I was on Ritalin for nearly fifteen years of my life for it, and now that I’m into full adulthood, I’ve struggled with recognizing what is my personality and what is an actual trait of this disorder.

My mind wanders. I suffer from social anxiety. I procrastinate. I tend to speak before thinking. I tend to live within my mind.

I didn’t know what ADHD was growing up. Not entirely. I knew it meant I had trouble focusing and that I had hyperactive tendencies. But that was about it. I did some research in my junior year of high school and found studies that were done revealing that certain synapse in the human brain of someone with ADHD (or even ADD) are missing – the ones that enable concentration.

It’s a challenge living with ADHD. I get restless easily, and I fidget constantly, though according to some recent research, that may be a good thing for me. I tend to speak – and say really stupid things – before thinking. I have a hard time concentrating on a single task for too long. I act on impulse quite a bit.

These traits are even more challenging when I add them to the fact that I am a husband, a father, and an entrepreneur trying to build a publishing company from the ground up. I am also a writer, and some may think that writing is the perfect job for someone with ADHD, as we have wild imaginations to begin with. Not necessarily true. It’s great once I am hyper-focused on the act of writing, but before that can happen, I have to tune out a great deal of distractions.

I don’t know if you have ADHD. I don’t know if you know someone who has the disorder. But if you’re a writer and you have it, than you know what I am talking about. For me, I have had to instill certain disciplines into my life to balance out the ADHD and the responsibilities of writing full-time – while also running a business.  I am by no means adhering to these completely yet. This is an immense work in progress, but this should at least serve as a decent battle plan for staying focused.


I Create Structure

One of the most important things in my life is structure. I thrive on a schedule, on a way of doing things in sameness day in and day out. It helps discipline my sometimes chaotic nature. Now, it’s not always possible to do this. I have a five-year-old, and he doesn’t always allow me to submit to a nice, organized structure all the time. Neither does life in general. But, structure helps. Routine helps.

I mark out a detailed schedule in Google Calendar each week and do my best to stick to it. I also use Asana to help keep track of my daily tasks. It’s not always easy – I can sometimes be misled by my feelings. For example, I’ll have a grand ambition on Friday night when I am creating my schedule, and then I’ll lose that motivation the next Monday night when I’m supposed to be working on something and I instead decide to watch the latest episode of something or another. Those pitfalls come also not just with ADHD, but also being your own boss. But they can be managed easier by creating a schedule and forcing yourself to stick to it – regardless of how you feel.

I Put Limits On My Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites are a playground for someone with my creative and wandering mind. I will literally spend hours on FB and not even realize it because my mind skips from one article to another picture to another comment. It’s horrible. So I have to create a social media schedule as a boundary towards this type of behavior. I’m still working it out, but essentially I am trying to get to where I put an hour into social media at the beginning of the day and an hour at the end. That covers my business and my writing.

I Say No To Social Interaction

Yes, I hang out with friends. Yes, I talk on the phone. Yes, I do favors for family. But I have had to put limits on these types of activities. Under normal circumstances, you want limits on these activities anyways when you’re running a business. Moreso when you enjoy skipping out of the home office to go do an errand or have coffee with a friend. Work does not get done doing this often. So, I try to block off a specific set of hours during the day to work, and then if someone asks me to do something, I save it for a specific day during the week (usually close to the weekend) or in the evening.

Usually, when I am on a roll for a day or two, I ALWAYS get a phone call about a family crisis, someone wanting to hang out, or something going on that is determined to steal me away from what I am supposed to be doing. And I always want to impulsively say yes just to give me a change of scenery and task. It takes a bit of finesse and a whole lot of discipline to stay the course when these things occur. Of course, there are always legitimate emergencies – and sometimes you really do need to just get out – but it should be the exception and not the norm.

A photo by Alejandro Escamilla.

I Hyper-Focus

I can hyper-focus when I really want to. I put my headphones on, crank up the tunes, and I dive into my projects, completely oblivious to the world around me. The trouble is getting my brain to that state without getting distracted by every single other thing – like the family, the television, the weather, social media, video games, my son, the wall. You get the point. But once I am in the ‘zone’, I am good for hours on end as long as I don’t break from it and try to engage in something else outside of my project/writing. I once penned 10,000 words in one weekend by simply sliding my headphones on and ignoring the outside world. Ah…that was a good day.

I Go Outdoors

During the summers here in Arizona, I don’t walk outside. In fact, I do my best to stay within an air-conditioned building for 99% of the day if I am able to. If I want to take a walk, I go to the mall. But during the winter, I try to walk outside at least once a day. A nice long walk around the block or through the local park helps me to have time to work out project/writing issues in my mind, get exercise, and get out of the office – breaking me free of the cabin-fever I can succumb to from time to time. I also try to sit on the patio for a brief break in the middle of the day and read. This helps relax my mind and helps me to stay focused on writing, reading, and business-related stuff.

These are just some of the things I have incorporated into my daily schedule to help me stay on task with my writing through distractions and restlessness. Do you have ADHD? Do you simply have a hard time focusing on projects during the day, especially if you are a work-from-home entrepreneur? How do you deal with the daily distractions? I would love to hear your thoughts and methods.


  • Anita Cooper

    Some of the traits you mention…in particular the procrastination and inability to focus…yeah, I can identify. For me, the inability to focus is that I’ve got too many things I think about or want to do and have a hard time deciding which to focus on. Also, I’m easily bored so if I’m writing on a boring topic (which just means it’s something I’m already familiar with) off goes the mind on one of its tangents… 😉

    The procrastination is often a result of not knowing where to start..information overload!

    • David N. Alderman

      Yes, I struggle with the same as well. A lot of times, my anxiety is rooted in the overwhelming amount of tasks in front of me. That’s why I think it’s important to come up with a set schedule and a task list to help guide us through the day.

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