Sunday, March 20, 2011

One way only?!

I learned a lot in the writing class that I recently took. Interestingly, one of the things I learned wasn't something necessarily related to the craft of writing.

There's nothing more awesome than taking a class with an instructor whose passion about the subject area is downright infectious. Unfortunately, that wasn't our teacher. Certainly, he's a nice guy, knows his craft well, gave lots of good pointers and feedback and such, but passion? Not really. Our teacher often seemed discontent. No doubt, a work week that included undergraduate composition class in the morning, noncredit adult students in the evening, and his own work during the day and late at night wasn't the most desirable. But hey, I have my own job to complain about.

On the first night of class, the teacher ticked off a list of what he referred to as the non-negotiable ground rules of the class. These covered writing assignments and class readings and such. And then he mentioned the key one: we had to pick a block of time, two hours, the same time each week, and that was going to be our writing time. Nothing, he said, was to take precedence over this block of writing time. According to our teacher, if we wanted to be serious writers, then this is one of the things that we must do.

I'm sure you can guess how this worked out for me.

Think about it: if you tell an ADDer that there's only one way to do something, it's only going to cause stress and rebellion. I tried our teacher's method for a couple of weeks, and it was an utter failure. I picked Sunday mornings, since I'm typically home at that time. I figured that he wouldn't give this advice if it wasn't going to work, so I'd do as I was asked.

On the first attempt, I stared at a blank Word document for about 20 minutes and then went to check my email, which led to a scan of the Sunday paper headlines and maybe a YouTube video...and magically, the two hours filled themselves nicely. Of course, I was kind of stressed that I didn't do my writing. But interestingly, I went about my day, and the story I was going to write started materializing in my head, which I then started writing later that evening.

On the second attempt, I was fairly hungover from my birthday party the previous night. Needless to say, I was yet again unsuccessful.

There was no third attempt.

I still felt some guilt about not being able to keep a writing appointment with myself. Do I not have it in me to be a serious writer? Oh, wait, do I want to be a "serious writer," anyway? Moreover, do I want to be a "serious writer" like my teacher purports to be?

I'd say yes, no, no. Yes - if I want to be a "serious writer," I can be. No - mainly because I don't know what that exactly means. And no - if it means that I'm going to walk around looking like I haven't eaten enough fiber and get cranky at my class, I'm not going to rack up tens of thousands in student loans to be that way.

Shortly after I came to this conclusion, I was telling my friend R. about this over dinner. R. was incredulous over the "writing block" notion. Certainly, R. thought that this may be a successful tactic for some people (which I certainly agree with). But, as R. said, "It's ridiculous for anyone to insist that there's only one way to do something. Especially writing! All you need to do to write is write!"

I really appreciated R.'s perspective on this. R's a non-ADDer, so hearing this assuaged my feelings that I wasn't able to comply with the teacher's edict because I lack discipline. In fact, I soon discovered that my way of kicking around story ideas in my head for a while before hitting the computer makes it a lot easier for me to write. This may not work for everyone, of course, and I wouldn't ever require anyone to try it if they knew of a way that worked better for them. In any case, you can thank my method for this blog post!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Back to basics

Recently, I passed the fifth anniversary of getting officially diagnosed with ADD. The fifth anniversary's referred to as the "paper anniversary". Accordingly, I'm sure that I spent that day looking through stacks of papers, and (for added drama) probably being late for something, too.

I'm going to rip off the "What I Know For Sure" column that Oprah writes in the back of her magazine to share a few thoughts about my diagnosis and taking ADD meds:

* Prior to Diagnosis Day, I had this notion that once I started taking ADD meds, I would be interested in taking care of everything that absolutely uninterests me because I know had focus, baby. That idea, alas, couldn't be more untrue. If a drug gets developed that makes me care about housecleaning or filing my taxes, then I'll be the first in line for it.

* If you think you're an ADDer and are unmedicated and wonder what it's like taking ADD meds, do this: tune a channel on your radio a decimal or so above or below the actual station number (if you're old-school, just turn the knob a hair). The out of tune station is how I felt before meds; the in-tune station is how I feel with meds. And either way, I still wanna rock.

* I spent so many years out of focus that I didn't really know what it was like to be focused. For example, I used to think all of my work was hard to get through, but I then realized (once medicated) that it was easier to maintain a train of thought on tasks that I indeed enjoy.

* On that note, drugs don't change your psychology. So, you will still dislike your coworkers or have commitment issues or be bored by what you consider busywork. Perhaps ADD factors into your issues, but solely blaming ADD for 'em isn't going to help you cope. (Even though I've worded this in the second person, I'm also talking to myself here.)

* Lastly, and most importantly, taking care of yourself has to come first, above everything else. I learned this big-time when I got coaching after my diagnosis. Getting enough sleep, eating right, planning your day, and doing stuff you enjoy is key.

So, I'll be honest and 'fess up here: I've been missing the mark lately on that last point. Skipping sleep's been the biggest culprit. Staying up late to "catch up on stuff" never pays off in the long run. And hey, let's be honest: I look so much better when I'm well rested and not haggard looking. And when I don't get enough sleep, everything else seems to fall apart to some degree. I don't eat properly; instead, I become a Dyson vacuum for carbohydrates in pursuit of energy. And of course, the combo of these two things certainly wore down my resistance, resulting in me being knocked out sick a couple of weeks ago. As far as planning goes...I've taken to jot appointments down on post-its and stick them in the canyon of my work bag, rather than put 'em in my calendar.

One thing I have made an effort of doing, though, is making time to do stuff that I enjoy. I recently finished a writing class that's made me realize how much I've been missing my favorite creative pursuit. Which, actually, is what got myself back here, so yay for that. The grind that is my job seemed to curb my social life, and I've been making more of an effort to connect with my pals.

So, it's time to take all of the knowledge I gained in years 1-5 as an ADDer, use it, and live it. Wish me luck!