Hyperfocus. That awesome part of being ADHD that allows you to concentrate, REALLY concentrate, on something that you enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, having attention deficit disorder does NOT mean you cannot concentrate. Your brain simply shuts down during things you don’t enjoy, or you find tedious, or don’t care about. (like math. and housework) If the subject interests you, then you can concentrate like nobody’s business. You are all focus and no play. You obsess about this thing to the point of not caring about anything else. You will give up food and sleep (and housework) to do this one thing that consumes you. Writing is my one thing. I seldom get into hyperfocus mode about anything else. Immersed in a writing project, I couldn’t care less if my daughter ever again has a homecooked meal. I do not care, or remember when I last cleaned the bathroom. If you don’t want to pull something to wear out of the dirty clothes hamper, then you are free to go naked. Hyperfocus. I get up in the morning thinking about my project. I get to work, (lately running about five minutes late because somewhere I lose track of time, and then can’t find my keys, or my purse, or the dogs…) all the while I am thinking about my project. I leave work, pick up my daughter and come home, telling myself I will just sit down with my writing for an hour and then I will start dinner…a couple hours later my daughter is reminding me that she’s hungry, and then I’m scrounging for something quick to fix, or running for take out, all the while wishing I was writing. Once my daughter is asleep, I settle down with the quiet to work on my project. I tell myself, just for a little while and then I have to get some sleep. I remind myself, when 2:00 a.m. rolls around that I have to be up at 6:30. I dream about my project and the next morning the whole cycle starts over again. If my daughter isn’t home then I work relentlessly, not worrying about sleep or whether or not I ate. I tell myself this is not healthy. I tell myself that there has to be another way to manage this writing life than by letting the hyperfocus take over. It’s easy to get addicted to the extreme focus. It’s an amazing feeling of being in tune with yourself and “in the zone”. It can also be unhealthy and lead to problems.
I’m a single parent. I like nothing more than to spend time with my daughter. Now that I’m writing, she has gotten used to “sharing” me with my other passion. She knows that I do have to work at night, and she is accepting (most of the time) and is very supportive and proud of my efforts. I normally handle my new role well. I cook dinner nightly, which we eat together, and I have a “no work” rule on Sundays, and I also reserve one night during the week for no work where we watch a movie together, or play a game, or even just sit on the couch and read our books. She’s older now, and is handling her dependency issues quite well, and enjoys some time to herself these days, so if I’m at the computer in the evening, she doesn’t really care.
The reality is, that I’m much more organized in my head than I am in real life. I like this little picture of having everything happen on schedules, with certain days to do certain things, with the house, laundry and meals all neatly taken care of. Yeah. Okay. I make schedules, I do not keep schedules. I think about cleaning and laundry, and I even start the tasks, then get sidetracked along the way. Then when the hyperfocus comes in, and I’m deeply involved in a project, everything gets thrown out the window. I get irritated at the things that take me away from writing. I get cranky and moody. This is the part I don’t like. Most people would tsk tsk at me, and say it’s all about self control. They would say it’s a choice, and that all I have to do is put down the writing and take care of business. Not so easy.
I’ve been caught up in my writing lately. I finished my book, and after putting it aside for a while, I went to work on re-writing. That went well, I got through the first re-writes without much drama. When I started the second round, I knew I was close to being done with this book. The end of last month, I started the edits knowing that when I completed these I would be able to hand it over to the person that is going to edit for me. It will be out of my hands for a while. I got caught up in the book, caught up in “completing” it, and wanting it to be exactly the way I wanted. I went into overdrive mode, thinking only of the book. I got caught up. I let everything else go for the sake of working on my book. Then something happened. I got to the end. I was done. There was nothing more I could do to this work until I’ve had input from someone else. It was as good as I could make it at this point. The book was done, but my hyperfocus held on. Without the book to work on, I was going to crash. Hard. So, what do you do when you have all this hyperfocus energy and the project is over? How do you come out of the fog and find your way back to the land of normalcy? How do you avoid putting yourself through it in the first place? I don’t have the answers. What I have is restlessness, sleeplessness, and a lost feeling. I have to step back and figure this out. Although I like the consuming feeling when I write, and am involved in a project that I care about, I have to learn how to keep perspective.
So, that said, I am super excited about my next book, Blessed Light, Cleansing Rain, due out in September. It has been an interesting process, and I have learned much from this story. I feel privileged to have known these characters, and will be very sad to see their time in my life come to an end. My work is far from done on it, but I will get a break from it while it is in someone else’s hands.
What’s next? I have a few projects I want to work on, but I think the first thing on my agenda is going to be some forced spring cleaning. Dog hair has infiltrated the entire house, and what little organization I ever had has disappeared. I’ll set the timer, make a schedule and do some cleaning. Then I will listen and see what characters want their story told next. I’ll probably start on one while waiting on the return of Blessed Light. I’m not sure what’s next, but some sleep would be nice.