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Using Your Neurodivergent Superpowers to Power Your Writing (Part 1)

Updated: Oct 21, 2022


If you are like me, you grew up believing all you had to do to become an author was to sit down at a computer and start writing your story. You thought you'd start at the beginning, and keep writing until it ended. However, if you are also a neurodivergent individual, you know this isn’t how it works for us.


At 32, I was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD. But, we're in luck! ADHD comes with, what I like to call, superpowers!

Learning how to use my newfound superpowers to my advantage has not only helped me get my household in order but has also helped me start writing the book I have had in my heart for over a decade.


I asked other neurodivergent authors for their tips and tricks and combined those with what I have learned these last few years, and I came up with some ideas to help others embrace their ADHD superpowers in their writing.


Hyperfocus


What is it?

As neurodivergent folk, we have this insane ability to absorb ourselves into one singular task. When we are hyper-focused, we tune everything else out. This can get to the point where you don’t even hear others speaking to you because you are so engrossed in the task at hand.


How to use it

Hyperfocus isn’t something we can just switch on and off (unfortunately). However, over time, we can learn to train it and use it to our advantage. The first step is to figure out what your hyperfocus triggers are. What is it about a task that puts you into a hyper-focused state?


Helpful Tips:

  • Identify your triggers and motivators. Are you solely brought into hyperfocus when the task is interesting and fun? Gear your project towards something you are highly interested in or find ways to connect what you're working on to something you find fun. For me, I’m triggered into hyperfocus when the task itself is motivating or rewarding. Writing is rewarding for me even when it’s not the main project I’m working on. Once I get started it’s hard to stop.

  • Get started! For most of us who are neurodivergent, once we start something and get into hyperfocus mode, we’re good to go. A professor I had once told me she would keep a small photo frame next to her workspace and when it was time to write, she would tell herself she just needed to write enough to fit inside the frame. It didn’t even have to be related to what she was working on, but once she got started, it would lead her to her project and she would get her work done easily.

  • Procrastinate! A common thread among the other ND writers I have talked to is that they save things for the last minute. Being on a deadline, and postponing starting your work, can force your brain to hyperfocus. Just make sure you don’t waste time beforehand stressing out about the deadline. Trust yourself and know that you will get it done on time.

  • Set a timer! Another ADHD writer told me she gets into hyperfocus by setting a ten-minute timer and turning on a song that she feels connects to a character or scene that she is working on. She will then write non-stop for tose ten minutes.

Non-Linear Thinking


What is it?

Non-linear thinkers do not work in a straight line. We tend to take things out of context and draw conclusions from completely unrelated things. We’re often called “scatterbrained” and are often not taken seriously in conversations because of it.


How to use it

This is my personal favorite superpower! I noticed early on in life that I prefer books that are not necessarily linear. Books that go back and forth in time or are told from multiple characters’ perspectives. I later learned that the reason I prefer these is that I also do not think in a linear way.


Helpful Tips:

  • Spur of the moment, unrelated ideas? If you get an idea for a scene/event/conversation for your story that’s unrelated to where you are at in writing the story, pause what you’re doing and write it down. I use OneNote for this, but other authors use regular notebooks, Notion, or another program that works for them. When you get to that point in your story, you can look at this note and implement it into the story.

  • Stuck on a certain character? Write a short story about that character. I have several pages of short stories about side characters that will not be included in my book, but help me get a deeper understanding of them as a person. I’ve also paused during a scene I’m writing to write a journal entry from that character's POV in order to get an idea of how they're feeling about the situation.

  • Create a new box! We are told to think outside the box but being neurodivergent, sometimes it’s easier for us to create a whole new box instead. We aren’t afraid to go against the norm and as kids, we are often considered defiant because of this. But guess what… as writers and artists, this can be a good thing. Do you want your magical character to be a troll instead of a wizard? Go for it! Instead of getting stuck on a theme or idea, create a new one! You have that power!

  • DON’T WRITE LINEAR. If you don’t think in a linear way, don’t write in one. Write one chapter from a different character or a different perspective. Write one chapter in the present and the next in the past or the future. Combined with your creativity, you can write some of the most unique and interesting stories. Colleen Hoover is an excellent example of a best-selling author who uses this technique in nearly all of her books!


Stay tuned for part 2 of this piece next week, where I’ll explain how our curiosity and executive dysfunction (yes, I said executive dysfunction) are also Superpowers!

 

About the Author: Nichole is a PNW native and is an aspiring author and editor. She loves all things nerdy and spends too much time planning her next comic con trips. She is full-time stay-at-home mom of four and a full-time college student at Washington State University. When she isn’t reading or writing she enjoys spending her free time outdoors with her kids and dog.



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