Skip to content

Pay Attention

I’ve been closely observing myself at work on the Noemi book for a couple of weeks now, and two things are clear: one, my brain clearly revels in the complicated intricacies of worldbuilding; and two, writing prose — satisfying as it can be once I’ve done it well — is a fucking chore.

As evidenced by the fact that I would study climatology for fourteen hours straight and still have trouble wrenching myself away, but once I resolved my roadblock and went back to the writing and rewriting parts, well. Somewhat to my surprise (because ‘initiation’ has been a lifelong problem for me), I had no trouble starting in the mornings, but after about two or at most three hours, I was done for the day. Like, my brain would increasingly slide off into other things, any other thing, other than what I was trying to write. I would get restless and have trouble staying at the desk. My ability to feel the difference between a well-written sentence and a string of garbage would get fainter and fainter until I was just mentally throwing up my hands.

I also did some rough math. It’s hard to get a real sense of how many words I can manage in two to three hours, because a lot of what I’ve been doing now is as much deleting and rewriting as it is brand new prose, but I am not now nor have ever been a fast writer. So I’m figuring a hundred, maybe a hundred-fifty words an hour. Three hundred a day. Even working seven mornings a week (which I have been), that’s only about two thousand words a week.

Which means I’m at minimum sixty weeks away from completing this book, if absolutely nothing happens in my life to derail me. More than a year. Which is maybe reasonable? But also disheartening.

But there is some good news. My GP, to my utter surprise, listened to me when I talked to her about my belief that I have ADHD, and offered to let me try methylphenidate (Ritalin). And it makes all the difference in the world.

So on the days that I don’t take it, my brain gets all slidy after a couple of hours. But when I do take it (and I’m on a tiny dose, just 10mg) I can focus for eight or nine hours, and even then, stopping is an active choice. Like I could’ve kept going if I needed to, but I decided I’d done enough for the day and deserved to chill and read someone else’s words for a while.

That sense of choice is the real revelation here. Even when I’m hyperfocused and in flow, I don’t feel like I have a choice; it feels like it’s running away from me, which is how I got to the point one day recently where I was sitting at my desk with ninety-three tabs and five spreadsheets open, literally sobbing from exhaustion, but I could. not. make myself put it down and go to bed.

Yesterday, even though I deleted hundreds of words as part of the rewrite, I still was up over a thousand at the end of nine-ish hours. And maybe not every day will be like that — I don’t have a huge sample size yet — but I like that math a lot better.

Published inNeurodivergenceWriting


  1. David David

    Read with interest as was the previous post. I have no particular comment other than to respond with what I’m doing with my mental life. But I either feel this would either be of little interest, or I am inhibited for some reason or another.

    • Karawynn Karawynn

      Sorry, this comment didn’t auto-approve and I didn’t see it until just now. But if you are comfortable talking about it, I would like to know what you’re doing with your mental life; you’ve always struck me as a very thoughtful person.

      • David Gates David Gates

        Hi Karawyn,

        It’s after coffee this morning and I see that I wrote something about my ‘mental life’ in a previous post. Maybe my mental life is not so interesting so I’ll just tell you about what I’m up to. I had wanted to spend the Summer absorbing some warm therms and watching the leaves flutter. I had also wanted to do that without quite realizing it was happening. So far all my warm air and leaf-flutter observations have been brief and self conscious. In fact, I seem to be a little over busy: Poetry group, leading a Buddhist Sangha, creative writing group (new), Big History reading group, and one other book club. Possibly this is too much, but it has the advantage of making the warm air and leaves even more special while they last.

        I also love bouncing my over active mind off of your posts, so please keep these posts going. And BTW good luck with the house.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *