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Friday, April 25, 2014

How I Turned my Struggle into Success—Confessions of an ADD Writer

Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains ChristianWriters Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for SouthernWriters Magazine and the Senior Editor for Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Writing is the best and worst career choice for me.
Writing is both the best and the worst career choice for me. I used to joke about the fact that if it wasn’t illegal or immoral, I’d write about it. A very true statement. You see, I’m definitely an Attention Deficit Disorder Writer. Today I want to share how I turned my struggle into success.

Freelance writing and blogging are both good fits for me, in that they give me lots of varying subject matter. They also give me the opportunity to work in small bites and find success with short pieces. But even working with small projects I had to find a way to manage my time and not get distracted.

Book length projects are more of a struggle. I’ve had to learn how to apply the work habits I developed for short projects to the long ones, and instead of being a liability, it’s helped me become a more productive writer.

Here are the things that help me—not just to cope—but to excel as a writer:
I've learned to embrace the creativity.
1. Embrace my creativity. One of the things that happens with my mind is that it’s always coming up with new ideas. Instead of shutting out these ideas, I keep a list. Now, I never lack for a blog post topic or article idea.

2. Work in small bites of time. I get twitchy if I have to sit still for more than an hour, so I plan my day in hour-long blocks of time.

3. Don’t stress about working on more than one project at once. There is lots of advice out there about only working on one thing at a time. The problem isn’t on how many things I work on at once—AS LONG AS I’m finishing projects regularly. The problem comes if I only start things and never finish them.

I write THROUGH the rabbit trails.
4. Write through the rabbit trails. In high school and college I learned how to write papers and articles by coming up with a theme sentence and focusing on that through-out the paper. That’s good advice, for the final draft. But the rough draft is supposed to be…well…rough. That’s the time to experiment and try things out. I’ve come up with some really good stuff by following a rabbit trail to its end. Often I come up with two or three good things. Good for a freelance writer.

5. Let your boredom be a barometer. Often when I get bored with a project it’s a symptom of a problem—and not with me. It means I’ve lost focus or need to add something to what I’ve written.  I’ve discovered I’ve got pretty good instincts and I’ve learned to trust them.

6. Freewriting is my friend. Sometimes my mind is spinning with so many ideas I don’t know where to start. That’s when I pull out the pen and paper and start writing. No rules, just words. In very short order my brain has pulled some order out of chaos and I’m ready to get to work.

I keep track of time and set limits.
7. Keep track of time and set limits. I could research for hours. Every fact seems to lead to another, and then to another and then…well you get the idea. I give myself a time limit for research and that helps limit the distractions.

8. Keep research and writing separate. When I’m done with my allotted research time, I start writing. If I come across something I need to check, I make a note, but I don’t stop writing. Otherwise it’s hard to get things finished.

These are the things I've found to help me succeed. What could you add to the list? Or am I the only easily-distracted writer around?


  1. Great tips as always Edie. I've made it okay to miss my own deadlines. The priority is always a minimum of one scene (I hate word counts) of the novel written each night. If there's time, I'll do the blog posts, then other projects. I also keep a long list of novel ideas. I love it when people ask where I get ideas. Heck, that's the easy part. The problem is I'm always eager to get to the next project. I'm like a cat who just needs to be on the other side of the door. I've solved that by starting a notebook for the next project while still working on the current novel. I plan my characters, plot, scenes I'd like to see, etc. That way I don't feel rushed to finish the current wip.

  2. I love this, Edie! As a writer who has ADD, I know we CAN turn it to our advantage. :)

  3. Oh ... how I ... relate!!!!! Being ADD has really helped me in writing fiction--I can delve easily into another world because of it. However, it does make it hard to focus and complete. I LOVE your "freewriting" idea the most. Sometimes you need to get all that gunk out of your head before you can make any sense out of it. I find lots of gems that way.
    Thanks for this post!

  4. Helpful tips, Edie, especially since I often say that if I was tested, I know I'd be diagnosed with ADD. I like the tips about writing in small chunks and embracing my creativity. Thanks, as always.

  5. I fully believe I'm another of those undiagnosed ADDers. Your tips were right-on, Edie! Thank you!


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