ADHD Fantasy Writing Challenge: Part Three
Dreams, Magic and Inspiration
Part three — and last — of my ADHD awareness month challenge, reporting daily on my progress in the writing of ADventures Heading up and Down — my ADHD fantasy novel.
Day 16: A Dream Is Born
It probably all began in the shower. Or maybe while folding some laundry.
One of these buzzing thoughts, those that tear my attention away from anything I try to focus on, lit a lightbulb in my mind. “Forget the laundry,” it said, “this one’s too good to lose.”
This incident inspired the first scene I wrote: Emma, one of my four main characters, lost in thoughts, just like me, but realizing, just like me, that her mind isn’t flawed: it’s enchanted. Given the right frame of mind, she could perform magic.
I started to concoct the magic I hope to present to you within a few months: the first ever ADHD fantasy novel. ADventures Heading up and Down seemed to be a proper name, describing my life much more accurately than Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Attention deficit? Uh-uh. Attention overload, if anything.
I share this with you so that you, or your loved one with ADHD, know that we are magic. Yes, sometimes dark magic, but still — magic. So please share this as much as you can, because someone you love or know has ADHD, and many of them need to hear that.
Day 17: Plotter? Pantser? ADHD’er!
Society likes to label and compartment. As a philosopher, I actually agree that fine distinctions are crucial, as long as one remembers what has been confined may sometimes need to be set free.
In writing, it is common to differentiate between plotters, who begin by setting a metaphoric roadmap of their plot, and only then begin writing; and pantsers, who jump right into the story, developing it as they go.
As always, I don’t fit into any category. The image features my earlier outline and manuscript. Yes, they’re almost the same size. They’re also almost the same mess of written bits, ideas, notes and plans mish-mashed together in no particular order.
I tried to be a pantser, but my mind jumped back and forth and forced me to plan ahead, or all of these ideas would be lost. I tried to plan ahead, but my mind jumped sideways and refused to work by order.
After a lot of effort, I was saved by switching to work by scenes. I now have about 80 scenes, each containing both story and notes, which allows me to rearrange them as I wish, and create a manageable outline by summarizing each.
So now, back to editing! In no particular order, obviously.
Day 18: ADHD Self-Publishing
As time progressed, and the novel with it, I began to consider publishing.
The search “traditional vs. self-publishing” yields many pros and cons in both ends, but I had a strange feeling reading it.
Let me clear that up: I’m not a control freak. I have way too many decisions to make daily, monthly and lifely, and so am happy with any decision made for me. Except for really crucial ones. Like those related to things I create. The freedom in being my book’s sole manager was simply too shiny to give up.
I think it’s very ADHD to self-do things. Struggling with outside demands will do that: you develop your own solutions, your own way of doing things, and it isn’t necessarily compatible with other people’s ways. With “normal” ways.
Plus, it’s a whole new world to plunge into. Tons to learn, tons to do. Novelty. Challenge… seems like the Indie path has “ADHD” written all over it!
Image: venturing into new terrain.
Day 19: Marketing with ADHD
Self-publishing comes with self-marketing. That’s a fact, I know that.
I hate marketing. That’s another fact I know. What I love is mostly creative stuff: writing is creative. So is designing. Well, branding is too. And copywriting… wait a minute…
Turns out, I love everything about marketing but the idea. And there’s marketing with ADHD for you: plan, design, write text, write copy, enjoy, and completely forget your goal while you’re at it. Hmm. That’s why I find myself constantly rearranging my website.
Sometimes, once you get to know some little nuisance, you realize it’s actually something you enjoy nurturing.
P.S. A bit of marketing: check out my readers’ club, and read a free story!
Day 20: The Magic of Thoughts
The title is the answer. Here is the question:
Where do ideas come from?
Ah. The big question.
The short answer is: I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does, even if they say they do.
The longer answer: I believe it’s one of these happy occasions where ADHD makes things much easier for me, because I am a magician of thoughts.
What do I mean? — easy enough: see this idea here? — Poof! Vanished, as brilliant as it may have been, simply by my not putting any special effort into keeping it in place!
Seriously though, I have another trick. I may seem to be sitting quietly, working on my computer, reading a book or petting my cat or dog; but in fact I’m battling a fierce storm. You may not see it; I don’t either, but I feel it strongly — inside my head.
Myriads of ideas stroll in there simultaneously, each minding their own business; but occasionally, two of them collide! This is a magical moment. “I could use some more chocolate” and “what does the cat want this time” may not be very impressive in themselves, but their collision can yield new, unexpected ideas, having nothing to do neither with cats nor with chocolate.
I happen to have a great example for this right now!
Sorry. Just slipped my mind.
Day 21: When the Magic Doesn’t Happen
The ADHD magic (of which I told you yesterday) is really cool. But, like most things ADHD, it isn’t up to me. Often it simply… isn’t there.
What do I do then? After all, warming the chair isn’t enough; I also need to write! Indeed, I have a few tricks to help summon this unwieldy magic. No, it doesn’t always help, either. But worth a try.
This lovely lightbox with the name of my novel, which I already showed you in Day 1, works beautifully with a dim white light around the table. Music can help get me in the right mood for the scene. This specific pen is my favorite for gnawing on or playing with. I usually drink water, but occasionally coffee is in place.
Notice a pattern? That’s right! Triggering the senses helps a great deal in triggering the ADHD mind. Movement, too, but there’s a catch: one needs to actually move in order to do that. Hmm. My solution: playing with the dogs!
And what about the mind? Is there no intellectual trick? There is one: these cute story cubes help throw my thoughts into unexpected directions and connections, which is what makes any story interesting.
What about inspiration, you ask? Good point. I love this quote, which is attributed to Pablo Picasso:
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
I do my best.
Day 22: Border-Crossing Fantasy
My novel is a cross-world fantasy, which means it features two separate worlds: the one we all know, and my ADHD-fantastic, invented one.
It occurred to me that in a certain sense, life with ADHD is a cross-world reality: we live in the same “regular” world, but our brain operates in a different way on many levels.
As I’m going through my characters back and forth movements between the two worlds, I find myself pondering my own border crossings.
As a child, when ADHD was not yet well-known, I was often called “spacey”: forgetting, failing to focus on what they thought I had to, hyperfocusing on what my brain chose to — living on my own planet.
What changed? Not much. But being diagnosed, understanding myself, brought my planet closer to Earth. The text in the image corresponds to my earlier feeling:
“She imagined herself sitting on her meteorite; that shelter from the world to which no one had access but herself. Sitting on that large rock, looking on Earth from afar, everything on Earth seemed tiny and unimportant. Homework, remembering things, phone calls… doesn’t matter if a voice speaking to you is real or only in your head. Doesn’t even matter if some little girl falls off a bridge or not. Doesn’t matter if you’re different or just like everybody else.”
Day 23: Challenge Ends!
Inconsistency is ADHD’s consistency: always expect the unexpected. Doesn’t October have 31 days?… Indeed, but I’m ending my challenge today.
Why so? Two reasons: One, I think its goal is already achieved! Even if I wanted to quit writing now, I can’t: I’ve already told all of you, 23 times by now, that I’ll finish my novel. And finish I will, soon enough. Thank you, readers! 🤗
Second reason: I really had fun preparing the entries for this challenge. Perhaps too much fun. I wonder if a better use for this time might be to… write and edit my novel, maybe? 😉
One of the most important things I’ve learned through a lifetime of living with ADHD is to differentiate good advice from bad. People will often tell you how important resilience is, and that you can’t just quit what doesn’t suit you. Isn’t that good advice?
Depends. It is good to be able to pull through hardships when there is no choice. Other times, it’s important to let yourself try many things, in order to pursue only those that are absolutely worth it. Especially when you have an ADHD-y tendency to jump around.
In fact, I think jumping around is a great thing, which allows us to try many more things than persevering with a few does. It’s important to know how to finish things, but not less important to know when to quit, and stop wasting time and effort.
I wrote a lot for simply saying “it’s been fun, but that’s it,” huh? I hope some of you enjoyed it too, and glad I’ve had my share of contributing to ADHD awareness month!
Let’s meet in my readers’ club, so you can be the first to know when my book — ADventures Heading up and Down — is out! Join here, and read Distracted Magic — a little taste of my ADHD fantasy, free of spoilers for the novel!