Writing on, and about, an island

Brain soup: writing + ADD + adulthood

In Writing on February 14, 2015 at 7:32 am

I don’t believe in god, but when she was wiring up my brain she obviously took some creative licence.


I’ve just been diagnosed with ADD, about 30 years after it would have been helpful (but better late than never, I guess). I also have an anxiety disorder – fairly severe at times – plus OCD and a few other things thrown in (synaesthesia and sensory processing disorder).

On paper I sound like a bit of a basket case – but funnily enough I am, in others’ eyes at least, pretty successful, in-control and happy (I’m clearly not a bad actor either!). I’m also lucky to be gifted with a natural talent for writing, drawing and a knack for quickly mastering most things I try… when I can be bothered, which is almost never. I have noticed that, when I put in 10% effort, I get a 90% return – it’s probably why, despite my particular challenges, I’ve sailed through a lot of things with minimum commitment – but the occasions when I put in that 10% are very, very few and far between. And it’s getting harder, and more stressful, to pull off. As most ADD-ers would relate to, I feel like I’m in a permanently suspended state of ‘potential’, without ever achieving anything of any real substance.

The ADD diagnosis came at about the same time I received a literary grant to complete my first novel, and the time I found out I was pregnant. I have some large, immovable deadlines looming. As I run my own business as a writer and editor, and have a young family, I have layer upon layer of deadlines and responsibilities to manage.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to do this year. I am anxious, angry, and immensely fucking frustrated. Finding out there’s a reason why my inner world is so splintered is a relief, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to be different, but I’m completely struck by the enormity of what’s in front of me. I can’t focus for more than a minute or so at a time (oh, how I thought that was normal…), yet I am going to be attempting a 60,000 page novel?

Right now, I’m thinking that I might aim for 333 words a day (that’s the OCD in me). I have also started reading other ‘ADD’ writers’ experiences, and they are inspiring. I will let you know how I go.

Simplicity = Creativity: stop worrying

In Career, Minimalism, Uncategorized, Writing on September 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I don’t do Facebook, and I don’t do quizzes on whether I’m creative or not, but this article hit a bit of a nerve with me.

I am a worrier, and apart from zombies and Ebola and being electrified while taking a shower (yes, I actually worry about this), I constantly worry whether my creativity is good enough, or is even ‘enough’. (This last bit is possibly why I have never pursued a career as a literary writer or artist, preferring commercial/corporate positions to give me validation and direction.)

As a writer by trade, I have (somewhat) over the years been able to release myself from some of the pressure to submit the perfect article, or perfect advertising copy or whatever… After 20 years of doing this career, however, I still procrastinate because I pursue perfection. I know this is something I will battle with forever, and accepting that makes me feel a little at peace with it… which in turn allows me to worry slightly less about it.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve decided to stop pressuring myself to enter writing comps, for the next little while. This is very hard for me because I’m ambitious, competitive and have had success in the past in this area. But I also clearly see that only viewing my creativity through this prism means I’m almost writing to some imagined KPIs, and not necessarily out of the joy of writing. It means I limit what I write about – and it also means I’m feeling stuck with re-starting my art practice (something that used to be second nature, and now feels very, very far away from me).

So, I’m going to try the simplicity of not loading myself up with creative expectations. I am going to place no demands on my creativity. (I’m referring here to my outside-of-job creativity, but I’m hoping it has flow-on effects to the ‘real work’ as well.) I’ll write and draw what I feel like; and I’m actively trying to replace other distractions and consumption with being creative in some way – but without the pressure.

The perfect (creativity) truly is the enemy of the good (creativity).



Simplicity = Creativity: the start

In Career, Minimalism, Tasmania, Writing on September 15, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Once upon a time… when I was about seven… I used to write and draw/paint instinctively and obsessively. There was nothing attached to the process. It was part of who I was.

I’m 38 now, and I have been struggling with my creativity for a while. Probably, if I’m honest, since I was about 16 – because that’s the point at which creativity stopped being something I did inherently, and became something I needed to quantify in some way.

I am not just a creative person, I have worked as a ‘creative’ for a long time, for money. And that’s where the problem lies. I equate creativity with monetary reward or prizes or accolades of some sort.

So, I’m going to try something for a while. I’m going to stop approaching my creativity as something I have to make money from, or should to do in order to submit an entry for something. I am going to try creating for no other person than to be creative; for no other person than for myself. I imagine that this, after so many years of not doing it, is going to be painfully hard. But, I am already frustrated and distracted and lost when it comes to my creative self, so it can’t be much harder, can it? It’s just going to be implementing a different ‘habit’.

To help me stay on track, I am going to combine one of my obsessions – simplicity – with creating. I moved to Tasmania from Sydney in 2008 to make my life simpler, and enable more space and time for creating. Getting rid of unnecessary stuff has always been important to me (I’ve worked as a copy editor for almost 20 years, and cutting out unnecessary words is one of my favourite past-times!) To some extent, the move and the motivation behind it has been a success. But there’s no doubt that pursuing simplicity can be just as hard on a quiet island as in the big smoke; the distractions aren’t always external – the internal ones can be just as bad. And I believe that simplicity is essential for creativity…

So, each time I feel like distracting myself from my lack of creativity with something that’s anti-simplicity – shopping, eating, going down the rabbit hole on the internet, for example – I am going to replace that time with being creative. Without pressure or need for result, I’m going to write or draw.

I don’t have the answers – that much I do know. But I can give it a go. Starting now.


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