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.