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  #16  
Old 04-26-08, 11:49 PM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

When you say constructing grafs and stringing sentences together is tedious, sounds like you're talking about the actual writing process...the point when you put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard). Have you tried using a tape recorder and then transcribing what you've dictated? Often the hand just can't keep up with the brain and its constellation of thoughts, here in all its clarity one minute, flickering out of existence the next.

Also, an editor once suggested I "vomit" out my report. Don't think and try to be fancy, just write. WRITE DAMMIT! Even if all you can get out is jibberish. The important thing it to physically be in the act of writing. Fix things later. There's a book called Writing Down The Bones that talks about that.

Alternately, you can tie yourself to your desk and set up a contraption that zaps you with 10 volts every time you stop typing...

Most of the time, I look at writing assignments I have to do as though they're kryptonite...and I'm a news reporter! I can't do it I tell you until I've brought it to the one-minute-to-deadline crisis point. **sigh**
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  #17  
Old 04-26-08, 11:56 PM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Thank you, Passenger,

I've followed the "vomit" approach (and dictating). Those approaches work for things like reports, some letters, etc. But writing briefs is different. It comes from the whole "show don't tell" concept. The structure itself ends up being driven by what you can pull from evidence or authority for support, if that makes sense. I suspect that reporting isn't too different, which may be why you also are an up-to-the deadline writer, eh? I've just lost the ability to sustain the all-nighters anymore. Otherwise my methods aren't that bad, it turns out. If I could just turn it on a little sooner, it would all work out ok.

The suggestions in this thread have been outstanding. I really appreciate everyone's feedback and hope that it helps some of the other folks (students and the like) who are struggling with this issue.

Sandy
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Old 04-28-08, 06:57 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Hi Sandy,

Thanks for your very interesting post on writing! I can identify 100% (I should be working on a conference paper right now, deadline is in three hours, so I can't go into detail); my writing process is EXACTLY the same, including the "bee's knees"-feeling . The only thing is: I don't think I have ADD. Mind you, I was diagnosed with it, but recent developments have led me to think that my various "ADD-symptoms" might stem from different causes, part physiological, part *shudder* bad habits. Procrastination just works for me. Granted, the stress is horrible, but the boredom is worse. Plus, subconsciously, I often do not want other people (= co-authors) to fiddle with what I think is a great product. I honestly wonder if you should take medication. Sure, the forum is very pro-meds, but I found that coaching worked very well for me. But then I don't know if I have ADD... Mmm, anyway... Just my 2 cents.

PS: Reading what passenger wrote: the "vomiting" approach works quite well for me, too. Had to get used to it, but now I can see the benefits.

Last edited by heyabird; 04-28-08 at 07:00 AM.. Reason: read other replies
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Old 04-28-08, 07:14 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Thanks for the feedback, HeyaBird.

You know, the thing that the medication seems to help with the most is the process of digesting the results of my research, which may be a bit.... mmmmmm..... specific to law, though I may be simply ignorant of the ways that other fields do the same thing. In fact, it may even be specific to the type of law that I practice, which is to say that I don't specialize in any particular subject matter, so I have to learn new areas of law all the time (that's why I love what I do and do not get bored).

In any event, that part of the process was always especially slow-going for me because of the distractions, and it's hard to bill a client for all that extra time. So the medication speeds up that process quite a bit, and that's a good thing.

Thanks for your other suggestions.

Sandy
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  #20  
Old 04-29-08, 07:07 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Wow! You're so lucky to have Dr. Hallowell reply to you... I didn't even realise he was on here. It goes to show how committed he is. I loved his book.
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Old 04-29-08, 07:07 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

And he's right, you are awesome! I will be your rah-rah girl!
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  #22  
Old 04-29-08, 07:26 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

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Originally Posted by aloha1983 View Post
Wow! You're so lucky to have Dr. Hallowell reply to you... I didn't even realise he was on here. It goes to show how committed he is. I loved his book.
http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=52066
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Old 04-29-08, 07:44 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Aloha,

You are such a cutie pie. I'd love to have you as my rah rah girl! (Bet Driver would like it, too, wouldn't you, Driver? Dress Aloha up in a sweater, mini-skirt and pom poms? Heh heh...) The feedback here has been excellent and I'm really thrilled (and lucky) to have y'all to work through this issue with. It's 6:40 am my time and I just got back from a run. I realized that one of the biggest changes between how I was in school (including college) and now is that I used to exercise strenuously 1-2 hours per day, so I'm going to try very hard to reincorporate that level of exercise in my life because I think that that probably helped quite a lot.

Sandy
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Old 04-29-08, 08:19 PM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

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Aloha,

You are such a cutie pie. I'd love to have you as my rah rah girl! (Bet Driver would like it, too, wouldn't you, Driver? Dress Aloha up in a sweater, mini-skirt and pom poms? Heh heh...)
Remains to be seen: dress her up and I'll let you know.
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Old 05-11-08, 01:38 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Sandy pointed out to me this thread a few days ago, and I've been formulating a response in my mind ever since. I just got back from my daily exercise, so I can't think of a better time to do the actual writing (ugh!).

I am a newspaper writer. I left the news desk last year for features, which has fewer deadlines and a wider variety of subjects to write about.

I'm not sure I have any great suggestions for your problem, Sandy, but I have some observations about how you write, how I write, and some of the ideas mentioned in this thread, and out of all that I think we might be able to make a little progress in understanding and controlling our writing. So let me describe my writing process, so you know where I'm coming from.

I can classify the kinds of writing I do in two kinds: creative and work/school. I go about them quite differently.

Creative writing ó fiction and essays I write on my own time ó is by far the more dysfunctional of the two kinds. I have never really gotten past the architect stage, yet I keep trying because I love storytelling, Iíve studied the craft all my life, and I know Iím a good writer.

There are at least three sources of trouble for my creative writing. Probably the easiest to overcome would be waning interest. If I could make better progress on my stories, I donít think I would lose interest so readily. Also, from what I have read of othersí experiences, the drive to care enough to get things done is a lot easier on ADHD medication, which I am not using yet.

A bigger problem is that I, too, depend on a hypomanic state to do my writing, but only rarely will it happen spontaneously, perhaps most often after Iíve just seen a show or movie that deeply moved me.

I do know of one way to make hypomania happen, although itís not easy to get right, and it has unwelcome side effects. Heavy drinking. After my third or fourth stiff drink in about an hour, sometimes I can get into a hypomanic state so good that even God trembles in fear of my writing prowess.

In this state, I feel ďon.Ē My mind is so quick, so sharp, and writing is not only effortless, itís incredibly pleasurable. But Iím just drunk, you say. Drunks feel overconfident when in reality they are impaired. Yet my writing holds up the morning after. Itís so damn good. I donít even make typos or spelling errors in that state. Itís the only stuff I write that I will show to my writer friends, and they say they wish they could write that well and itís a shame that I donít write more often.

I tell them I donít write more often because I canít get into that inspired state easily. Spontaneous hypomania is rare for me. I donít hit the hard drinks more than a couple of times a month, and only a fraction of these occasions will induce the right mental state.

So after I heard you describe this as hypomania, Sandy, I read up on it. I find it interesting that several of us can identify with this experience. Iím not sure this is hyperfocus. I think itís stronger than that. Hyperfocus on steroids, where a sense of confidence is especially bold.

Hypomaniaís symptoms include feelings of grandiosity and racing thoughts (and grandiose esteem for those racing thoughts), which compels me to wonder whether I am in fact not so inspired in that state, Iím just quicker and confident. Since I first read this thread, I have been wondering whether Iíve been a fool to wait around for those hypomanic states ó the talent is already in me, I just need to apply myself with more confidence and patience in my normal state. But I donít even know if thatís possible, which brings me to my third problem with creative writing.

ďThe carpenter meets the brick wall, but the contractor vomits.Ē If by some chance Iíve done enough brainstorming and planning for a story and Iím still interested in it enough to write it, sitting down to begin the carpenter stage is nevertheless an exercise in pure frustration. The words do not, will not come. The carpenter finds a brick wall surrounding the building site. Eventually I give up.

But writing for school/work is different. I like thePassengerís ďvomitĒ description: ďdonít think and try to be fancy, just write.Ē This is the only way I ever got anything done for school or the newspapers Iíve worked at. And it really feels like vomit ó slapdash work that is possible only when the deadline looms large enough to get some adrenaline flowing. Preparatory stages of brainstorming, researching and planning are kept to the barest minimum. Itís all carpenter-stage writing because thereís never really any time for substantial revision.

I guess the writing I produce this way is good enough to get by. Teachers always loved it, even when it was late or incomplete, but I always knew in my heart I could have done much better if I could have given proper attention to all four stages of writing, and if I could have achieved that hypomanic state during the process. Having tasted the intoxicating sweetness of hypomanic writing, my bland ďvomitĒ writing tastes so much worse. Othersí praise of this writing means nothing to me. Itís like hearing my mom tell me Iím handsome after Iíve gotten a bad haircut. I know what a stinking pile that writing really was.

So what am I getting at? Bottom line, I think a big part of the problem for me at this point is confidence and trust in my writing. With hypomania, the confidence and drive is there in spades. Outside the hypomanic state, I wonít work unless if I have to, and it feels like vomit. But now I can tell myself with some authority that the writing is actually a little better than the piece of s--- that my paranoid, stressed out little heart fears it is, and I should stick with it because I cannot wait for hypomanic states, and I cannot force them.

On the other hand, this isnít just a problem of feeling confident enough to have the drive to get the work done. There is still that mental block, and attempting to undermine it with vomit will only get me so far. I cannot deny that there are SOME genuine qualitative differences in my work, not just my work ethic, when Iím in a more stimulated mental state.

But even if hypomania is out of my reach most of the time, I think I can reliably find middle ground. I recognize now that I have an acute need for stimulation in order to work well. Stress (good stress, bad stress, sad stress, ANY stress) can sometimes make it happen, but the bad kinds are unhealthy. However the good kinds are worth more exploring, as far as their potential to benefit ADHD writers as a natural stimulant to be used before work.

Perhaps intuitively Iíve understood that all my life. Perhaps this is part of why I procrastinate and why Iíve been branded lazy so often ó I often feel like I have to play before I work, and now I can see why. I need to achieve a more stimulated mood or I canít work. Of course, being ADD, itís hard to remember what you should be doing after the fun starts, and itís hard to switch focus from fun activities. But I honestly think I can do a lot better now that I understand playtimeís function as a means of stimulating myself into an elevated mood and mental pace. I understand consciously now that it is vitally important to do something to stimulate my mind before I work, and once Iíve reached a more stimulated level, I know itís time to get to work.

All of Dr. Hallowellís suggestions, from exercise breaks to supplements and medication, will also help me to be more stimulated.

So to speak to your issues specifically, Sandy, it sounds like youíre already well on your way to nourishing your stimulation needs, although part of me wonders if youíve really found the right type and dose of pharmaceutical stimulant.

But I wonder if your reliance on the hypomanic state may be to your detriment. Your all-nighters are as terrible for your health as my benders are for mine. Both of us are paying a heavy price for something I suspect is overrated. Born with stimulation-starved bodies, hypomania is the flame to our moths, something we feel driven to chase after when, in fact, we could probably be a lot more productive if we could trust our work during more common mental states.


But there are lots of little tricks to at least loosen up the mind and get it more stimulated so that the vomit stage goes easily. So I pledge to learn how to tolerate the vomit stage better. To just sit down and get the job done and not listen to my fierce internal critic so much. And I pledge to do everything HEALTHY that I can think of to keep my mind stimulated. Omega 3. Short walks around the neighborhood when my mind poops out. The right music. No distractions. Thatís what I did today, and this monstrously long entry I have now finished is living proof.
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  #26  
Old 05-11-08, 08:46 AM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Writin',

Thanks for your post. I'm giving it thought. I believe that thePassenger is also a newspaper writer, if I recall. I think she has it on her profile page.

I'm going to go for a run now and then will be traveling for the rest of today, but I'll try to get back to you very soon about how I think we can, in fact, "induce" something akin to the hypomanic states with exercise. The more that I've thought about this issue, the more that I'm realizing that one big difference between me today and me several years ago is that I exercised quite strenuously in the past and don't do nearly as much of it anymore. So I'm hoping that adding that back in, and doing it at opportune times (i.e., taking a break in the middle of the day to go to a gym that is near my office) will help quite a lot.

I wrote one brief entirely outside the hypomanic state and although the final work product was good, the interim drafts were not very useful. So the quality work product did not come together until the end anyway. It also ended up taking more time to write it that way, and that's always a bit of a concern when one bills by the hour, not the piece (not sure how you guys bill, but I know that my hubby's newspaper writing is billed by the piece).

I'll respond more fully later. Thanks again for your post. It's given me plenty of food for thought for my morning run.
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Old 05-12-08, 04:36 PM
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Re: Writing, deadlines, hyperfocus, and "procrastination."

Hi Sandy4957,

I'm an attorney, too. I actually taught legal writing for a few semesters, until my second child was born. Now I just work part-time, which I think works better with my ADD. I tried Straterra for awhile, but I just didn't like it and didn't think it helped much. I think you're on the right track with exercise. I've started doing Yoga about a year ago, and have found it to be very helpful.

You were saying you couldn't use the "vomit" method when writing briefs. I know what you mean, but have found a way to make that work. I will do an outline based on my research. I group the key cases together and then I can dictate, section by section. My poor secretary types it up and then I end up moving things around, re-organizing and re-writing on the computer. I do know what you mean about getting into a state and being able to see the whole structure of the brief. Once I have that, if I can turn that into some type of outline, mind map, whatever, I can come back to it and dictate different parts of it.

It has been hard for me to stop procrastinating, but now that I'm part-time and have children, I just can't do all-nighters. I've done it just once since my kids were born and that had more to do with the other lawyer on the case, than me. I force myself into believing the deadline is earlier than it is, so I can get the work done.

I'm thrilled to find another attorney that has ADD. I haven't come out to my firm and I don't plan on it. I don't think they'd understand. I'm anxious to hear how your experience is after telling. I haven't found most lawyers to be very open to new and different, so I'll be curious to hear how lawyers and clients react to you.
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