In the second part of my series, I’m going to cover a couple more of the key neurodivergent superpowers you can use to help you on your writing journey. My last post covered two of my personal favorites, Hyperfocus, and Non-Linear Thinking. This post will cover Executive Dysfunction and Curiosity.
What is it?
I know, I know. You’re thinking “this is the WORST part of my ND disorder. How can this be a superpower?!” Trust me! I’ll get to that!
There are many different scientific definitions for Executive Dysfunction and each of them describes this as a negative neurodivergent trait. They tell us that we lack the ability to start and finish tasks, have problems with time management, and can’t stay on task. To neurotypical people, this makes us look lazy and unmotivated.
However, those of us with neurodivergent disorders know that there is so much more to it than that.
How to use it?
I’m sure you’ve been there. You have a deadline, you have a checklist, and you know what you are supposed to be doing, but you simply can’t get yourself to get up and do it. Guess what? That’s OK!
Executive Dysfunction can be a good thing for writers.
When you are sleeping, daydreaming, resting, or allowing your mind to wander, there is a part of your brain referred to as the “default mode network” that lights up. This is the same part of your brain that is directly related to creativity, (as well as empathy)! This means when you are focused on tasks, your creativity is actually being suppressed!
Don’t beat yourself about it. It’s hard when others call you lazy or get upset with you for “not doing anything all day”. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Trust that during those executive dysfunction moments (or full days) your brain is actually exercising the very part of itself that allows you to write and be creative.
Keep other parts of your brain active. Doodling, fidgeting, listening to music, or even playing a video game that doesn’t take much thought can help keep other parts of your brain active without suppressing creativity.
Work in spurts. It is ok to have entire weeks where you do absolutely no work on your project and follow it up with weeks of constant hyperfocus. During those weeks of no “work”, you are still actively exercising other portions of your brain while you allow the other parts much-needed relief
If you want more information on the science of the brain, Planet Neurodivergent is a great resource.
What is it?
Curiosity does not always kill the cat. Curiosity is when someone has a strong desire to know and learn about something, or in our case, many things.
How to use it?
As someone with ADHD, I can attest to the fact that my interests change frequently. However, when I become interested, I become nearly obsessed with learning everything about it. This means we develop excellent research skills and have extensive knowledge about a lot of different topics.
Ask more questions! Curiosity leads to asking questions, so when you are writing, ask yourself and your characters questions. Become curious about your own character, who they are, what they are doing, and why. This will help you build a story and characters that are full and well-rounded.
Research! This is my favorite part of writing and reading. If I’m reading a book about elves or fae folk, I tend to do my own research on those creatures. This means that if I were ever to write a story of my own with these creatures, I already have extensive knowledge of them. This is also beneficial if you’re writing a story based in another part of the world, or if you are fact-checking non-fiction pieces. I spoke with a few ND writers in a group on Facebook about this and they have said when they are experiencing writer's block or are feeling bored with their story, they start to do research about the topic they're writing about. This sparks their interest again and get’s them back into their creative mode/
Be observant! Neurodivergent folks tend to be keenly observant in general and our curiosity about the world only enhances that. We tend to pick up on things most people don’t. People watching helps me add details to my characters that others may not think of. Picking up on how others behave helps me visualize how my characters may do the same thing.
Take notes! Carry a notebook when you leave the house or use a note-taking app. When you are out in public, aside from observing people, observe how the rain gathers on different items or how the sun shines through different bushes. Taking notes on these things and then using those notes in your writing will help you build more detailed scenes.
Being neurodivergent may be considered a disability in society’s eyes. We are not always taken seriously and are often told we need to fix the pieces of ourselves that make us unique. Shut those thoughts down! Embrace these superpowers and use them to show the world what you can really do!
Stay tuned next week for the third and final part of this series on ADHD and writing.
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.