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10 Tips for Neurodivergent Writers


First off- yes we fully realize many writers have some sort of neurodivergence, but these two recently diagnosed anxious and ADHD writers (Lena & Adriana) have found the following things useful and want to share them with you. We also realize we may have mentioned some of these in past blogs, but who wants to actually re-hash the past outside of therapy unless it's for a character in your novel?


  1. Read a lot! (Yes, this includes audiobooks especially for those with vision difficulty or impairments, processing disorders, dyslexia, and being a really busy carer or parent). Take the time to perhaps read or listen to the book twice or slowly. Enjoy the book as a reader and as a writer. Notice what you like and don't like - you don't need to write a nasty Goodreads review, but it will help you with your own writing. How? Well, it will help you interpret and process suggestions from a lot of writer's blogs much better if you are learning from other's work and don't have rejection sensitivity disorder clouding your view. (You have plenty of time to indulge that inner critic during the editing and revising process:)

  2. Guidelines not Rules Personally, I tend to take things literally and when I am told to not do something - I don't. Or if I do I feel guilt and shame and a host of other negative self talk pops up. It has taken me years to understand that most of the initial directions and how to's I have imbibed from scores of authors and writers were suggestions of what worked for them and were drawn from what they were taught and their own learning processes. What I initially understood as rules of writing, were really fuzzy guidelines- designed to help understand building blocks. Then, like a NINTENDO or SEGA game (I know I'm showing my age) as you level up in your writing you get to stretch boundaries and incorporate more nuanced skills which blur those lines you thought were rules. And with those nuances and blurrings, you polish your world, characters and prose into its own unique art. Did I lose you? Hmm, overly simplified example- we've all learned "SHOW DON'T TELL", but then you read more and write more and realize, there are parts that are better to just tell or the plot would never progress. Emotions, environment and dramatic scenes where the senses need to be heightened and employed of course need to have more "showing". However, lest we forget one of the best "telling" lines ever... "It was the best of times it was the worst of times..." Okay, yes none of us are Charles Dickens, but there is a time and place for everything. So our advice is to let your muse flow, then your inner critic can help edit.

  3. Practice, Practice, Practice As people with ADHD we understand the annoying dichotomy of 'lazy' perfectionism, and feeling we should inexplicably be good at something the first time around. Nevertheless, the truth is the only way to be a better writer is to practice. As Ray Bradbury is quoted, "Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row."

  4. Find Your Own Process - you don't have to trust someone else's Again personally, the phrase "trust the process" does exactly the opposite. I need to understand the process before I can trust it. So unfortunately for neurodivergent people, this means a much longer series of trials and errors. But now that I know this, it is easier to try out new things and find what works for me and what does not. Every time you read a blog or suggestion just remember, they are sharing what worked for them, HOPING - it will work for you. So try things out, (but set reminders to cancel subscriptions:)

  5. Pomodoro! And on the tails of find your own process, I am sharing one that works for me. Lena can do 30 minute pomodoros I use 15 minute and 25 minute ones. If you are not familiar with this, it is simple- set an alarm for your desired productivity time. Once the alarm goes off, take a 5 minute break (or if you have ADHD do a small activity for 5 minutes - like stretching, drinking water or tidying). There are cube timers you can flip and visual times you can use in addition to many apps to help you with this. We recommend this as it's much easier to motivate to write, read or edit for 20 or 30 minutes vs. edit my book or do something for 2 hours.

  6. Daydream but Take Notes Pondering your characters and daydreaming about your plot counts in the creative process! So pat yourself on the back, but also keep a writing notebook handy or use your chosen app in your phone. You don't want that great idea to get away from you.

  7. Create Goals and Rewards You can be a plotter, a pantser, a plantser or any derivation thereof, but writing is easier with goals, and easier with manageable accomplishable goals. Add on to this, small rewards for each bite size goal, and larger ones for milestones and everything gets easier. At least for me:)

  8. Practice Compassion I probably should not have left this until so late, but this may be the most important one. Practice self compassion and empathy when commenting on other's writing. Many writing blogs will tell you, you have to have a daily routine or write 2,000 words a day; which for many people is great. But having space every day to sit down and write is a privilege. If you are a parent, single parent, carer, neurodivergent, chronically ill or otherwise being able to write a set amount or for a set time everyday can seem impossible. So it's okay. You don't have to! Routine is helpful and great but it is not absolutely necessary. What is necessary is to want to write (not everyday- but in sum-total), to enjoy the creative process overall in its ups and downs. This may be the hardest of all ten listed, but I whole heartedly believe what so many other's have said, "only you can tell your story".

  9. Be Interested and Enthusiastic I recently listened to a podcast (The Bestseller Experiment - which I highly recommend) and it was a 2017? 2018 interview with Brandon Sanderson the prolific fantasy author, blogger, podcaster and general creative genius, he has his own awesome podcast and is very generous about sharing his resources and process for writing fantasy novels on various platforms. Anyway to misquote him, he said something about to make sure every scene you sit down to write you are excited about - otherwise, the reader will be bored, and you may not need that scene, (or it may seem like you don't).

  10. TK and # (Okay, my dog is snoring and I've had some wine, so I'll wrap it up.) Lena and I found this nugget somewhere, and we are truly sorry we cannot site it, or are perhaps to lazy to, but when you are writing and on a roll but forget something or want to look something up--- don't do it. Do not take that side quest just type TKblahblahblah or TKwithwhateveryouwanttolookup or just TK or #. So you can insert your thought and move on. The letters TK do not exist or at least are extremely rare in the English language - so once you go back to your draft simply do a find/search for TK then you can take note eventually fill in side quests or words that had eluded you at the time.


For now, that is all. We hope at least a few of these are helpful!

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