Attention Deficit Disorder runs so deeply in my family that I’ve wondered if we should try to get a bulk discount on meds.
It’s present in at least one of my siblings, then my nieces, a brother-in-law, at least two of my children–and me.
My youngest child was the first to be diagnosed – in a school early intervention program. I think the words used were: This child would be distracted by a fly on the wall three rooms away.
After my sister was diagnosed in her forties, she began sharing her experience growing up. She did well in school until things got more complicated: multiple teachers, long-term assignments, a busy social life. I realized I related to what she was saying. My sis recognized our similar wiring and made me a t-shirt for Christmas that year with three Greek letters: we were members of the Alpha Delta Delta sorority.
I now embrace the space-outs, the lack of focus, the hyperfocus, and the difficulties with organization.
Because ADHD has made me a better writer.
If I get bored with a scene I’m writing, and my attention wanders, I throw something in to spice things up. If I am bored, my readers probably will be, too.
And that is why the last act of my latest novel, Across the Red Sky, gets intense—with a cascade of events and twists.
If a character isn’t interesting enough to keep my attention, I get rid of them. Or…they become my murder victim.
I remember my mind drifting in high school English classes. I loved reading and adored language, but the constant analysis and repetition of concepts bored me. When I started teaching, I decided that I would – within what I have to teach – keep things interesting. I like to bring in technology, hands-on activities, humor and relatability. Stephen Crane’s civil war novel The Red Badge of Courage bored the heck out of me when I read it in middle school (and apparently it has bored many students and teachers).
Then I realized in trying to teach it: the actual setting of this book is 17-year-old Henry Fleming’s still-maturing brain. I tried to tie that in with some psychology and contrast reality with how “The Youth” is thinking of himself and his situation. In class we’d draw a diagram of Henry’s brain. What’s going on in his brain today? Boom—students found things in Henry’s brain that they could relate to.
We also did Civil War LARP-ing on the school playground. Very not boring!
There are so many things about ourselves that we think of as less than. Shameful. And the very worst designation: not like everybody else.
It has taken me way too many years to realize that the way my brain works is not flawed. It is my superpower. Because of it, I struggle with some things—like staying organized. Proofreading (unless I happen to be hyperfocused). Or getting all the dishes for dinner ready to serve at the same time.
And for those things, I’ve had to develop coping strategies over the years. Or ask other people for help.
But because of my ADHD, I do some things better than other people.
And being able to do those things better–in the fields I’ve chosen to work in–can encourage and even delight other people.