Let’s pretend you live and breathe writing: Your blog is a labor of love, you’re passionate about the YA novel you’ve been writing for months, and you enjoy writing articles for your clients. But also imagine this: You’re easily distracted by random thoughts, overlook important directions, and miss crucial details you were supposed to include.
Both scenarios are the reality for professional writers with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that restricts a person’s ability to concentrate and control impulses. It’s not a simple childhood disorder; among adult cases, 41.3% are deemed severe, according to the CDC.
It can seem impossible to edit long-form writing like a feature article, an educational e-book, or even a novel with ADHD. You have to have the commitment, patience, and detailed precision to make your draft as clean and reader-friendly as possible, especially if you don’t have an editor or proofreader. However, you don’t have to let ADHD control your editing time. There are ways to mitigate your symptoms so that you can edit your long-form document no matter how close to the deadline it is.
Don’t you love that magical moment when you’ve checked your work once, finding nothing, but then while looking back at the document a second time, discover you missed some glaring mistakes?
One of the most blatant symptoms of ADHD is overlooking mistakes on critical details. For writers, this could mean missing obvious grammar errors or omitting important information.
While this symptom may seem minor, it could signify carelessness or apathy to blog visitors, clients, or editors who notice the errors before you do, sending the wrong message that this piece of writing isn’t important to you. For a writer with ADHD, this is a major issue that isn’t even your fault.
A useful editing technique that can improve how you review your work is changing how you view your document.
To avoid overlooking details, change the formatting of the entire document. By altering the format of your draft, you can view your work with a different lens, catching mistakes that you may have missed while initially reading your draft over. You can change the font, font size, and page margins to make this stage of editing easier for you. Even changing the color of the background can help. It all depends on how you want to maximize your strengths: If you read better by inverting the colors of your document, white text with a black background, then do so for your editing stage.
Changing the perspective of your work can help you spot crucial details that can ultimately make your text better and make your editing process smoother.
One of the most glaring symptoms of ADHD is having a short attention span (hence the “attention deficiency”). This means that you have a limited amount of time to focus on the task at hand before something else captures your attention. A short attention span also means you have to be strategic while editing long-form writing.
If you’re a blogger or a freelance writer, it means mistakes have to be found and corrected as soon as possible, so editing quickly and efficiently is required––this can mean a world of difference in finishing projects or commissioned pieces.
To truncate your editing time, split your writing into sections. Break your document into manageable pieces, and decide which aspect of your text needs the most work. The size of your pieces depends on the level of your editing skills and how quickly you want it done. For instance, you can section your document by:
In other words, it’s about making your document manageable for you. You simplify your editing sessions and organize how you get your work done. Most importantly, you won’t feel overwhelmed once you start editing no matter how many pages or how many words you have.
When you have ADHD, the most prevalent and annoying symptom is excessive activity or fidgeting. These episodes are associated with “repetitive movements or sounds” and most commonly take the form of pacing or repetitive body movements.
What do you do when you’re a writer and you’re too restless to focus?
The best thing to do is to take breaks. When you’re pressured to finish an assignment before a deadline, stress is all you can feel, and you try to ignore the impulse to break away from your work. However, the best way to combat restlessness is to let your body engage with habitual behavior when dealing with stress. For instance, maybe you’re prone to tapping your pen, moving around in your seat, or pacing by walking back and forth in a pattern.
What matters is to time these breaks efficiently, for example:
When you find yourself getting more distracted the longer you work, then it’s time to get up and move. Do two-minute jumping jacks or take a walk around your neighborhood while listening to your favorite Spotify playlist. Any physical activity is recommended. The point is to give your mind a moment to breathe and alleviate the growing stress. All you need to do is understand how your ADHD affects your ability to work and be realistic about how you plan on taking relaxing but short breaks so you can get back to task.
Taking notes is an easy and useful habit; it’s something you probably did during your formative years in school. But for a writer with paying clients or a blogger with growing viewers, it’s more important than ever to take reliable notes.
Another vexing symptom of ADHD is forgetting tasks or directions. While this is probably not enough to ruin one’s career, it is still a detrimental issue when a client or editor has to remind you to add or cut out details repeatedly. When you have an assignment, it’s best to combat this symptom by writing notes.
Having your notes handy while you’re editing long-form writing is the best way to remember what you should prioritize. Does your client want five sources for research? Did your editor change the deadline for a draft?
It’s frustrating to balance so many important details. This, however, becomes doable once notes are available to you as you edit. If you don’t have any, you run the risk of forgetting essential details and end up with a weakened draft.
Here are a few notes you’ll want to have with you while you edit:
Of course, there are many ways to take notes. My personal preference is to use sticky notes and plaster them on the surface of my planner. Sometimes, it’s even more efficient to use a digital note-taking program. Whatever your method may be, try to be as detailed as possible so you don’t miss anything.
ADHD is a mental disorder that exhibits many symptoms. You have a short attention span, forget tasks, misread directions, become too restless to focus, or overlook simple issues. All these symptoms coalesce into a stressful life for an adult, doubly so for a professional writer with ADHD.
While these symptoms can be a major hurdle to editing your longform writing, there are ways to overcome them. Techniques as simple as changing your document formatting or taking quick breaks to physically relieve your stress can help you accomplish so much in your editing session. All you need to do is use editing techniques that make your ADHD symptoms easier to manage.
Sharrisse Viltus is a freelance writer based in Honolulu, Hawai’i. She specializes in blog writing and feature articles about marketing, writing, entertainment, and traveling. Before becoming a freelance writer, she graduated from Bridgewater State University with a B.A in English and Public Relations. When she isn't working on her own creative writing projects, you can find her napping at the beach. Visit her website at http://sharrisseviltus.com.