ADHD Writer

On ADHD, Distraction,

and wandering through airports

Graveyards and the hidden history of Neurodifference


Graveyards and the hidden history of Neurodifference

    I’m on vacation in Connecticut.  It’s fall, just before Halloween.  The leaves are amazing. It’s the perfect time to visit an apple orchard or a graveyard.

    I love graveyards. If books hold the collected history of important people, graveyard hold the history of just about everyone else.

    Wethersfield Connecticut has one of my favorite cemeteries. It’s very old, and filled with carvings of winged angel heads that resemble skulls. It’s a cemetery set-designed for an old school horror film, filled with tall tombstones inscribed:  “Here lyeth the interred body of…”

    But I have a special reason for loving this graveyard.  In the back part of the old yard, near an obelisk marked “Stillman” are several headstone from the mid 18th century that have mistakes.  Misspelled words. Spacing errors. Forgotten letters inserted later. 

    I think the 18th century stone carver who made these tombstones was dyslexic.  Maybe he was also ADHD and rushed his work.  

    I don’t know if this is true.  We can never know for sure because the diagnoses of dyslexia hasn’t been around that long. While I’m grateful to be alive during the first time in history when neurodifference is acknowledged, it’s also a lonely feeling.  It’s as though neurodifferent people didn’t exist before 1950.

    But of course, we did.  We have a hidden history.

    I like to visit the graveyard in Wethersfield and imagine several generations of stone masons passing artistic skill and an inability to spell from father to son in an unbroken line. Even misspelled and misalignedthe grave stones are beautiful.  





    It’s Friday. My best friend Bob is in Port Aransas on the gulf coast with the ashes of his recently deceased girlfriend Linda. Bob asked me to go with him,  and I wanted to, but I had so many things to do, and then of course I didn’t.  I have trouble leaving the house sometimes.  To be fair, Bob didn’t tell me he was planning on scattering Linda’s ashes.

    As it turned out, he didn’t end up scattering her ashes in the ocean.  Instead, he put them in a vase and took her ashes out for a drink. Linda was the best person in the world to have a drink with. She was a fount of great stories, and she laughed a lot.  We once ordered a tidy-bowl blue punchbowl with four straws because she thought it would be hilarious to share a drink that look like something the set designers for Gilligan’s Island whipped up to go with all those coconut banana creme pies. And because I was with Linda it was hilarious, and magical. 

    I have trouble getting out of the house, but when I had the opportunity to have a drink with Linda, I dropped everything. Since Bob didn’t scatter her ashes, I’ll probably go have a drink sometime with the ashes of Linda in the vase.   Having a drink with imaginary Linda will probably be better than having a drink with most real people.





Red Yellow Green--Go!

When I taught after school reading as part of a graduate program, I arrived one day to find a ADHD 3rd grade student huddled under my desk, red-eyed from crying.  He clearly didn’t want to talk, so I sat down at a nearby table and organized my lesson.  After a couple of minutes he stuck his head out from under my desk.

    “What’s up?” I asked.

    “I got my card moved from yellow to red,” he replied. “Second red day in a row. Now I have to take a note home to my mom to sign.”

    Red, yellow, green.  A system to let you  know how badly your behavior sucks.  There’s no winning at red, yellow, green. You can make a herculean effort to control your behavior and still spend your life firmly in the yellow. 

    “That’s rough,” I said. “I failed my video lesson. Again.”

    I had to record myself teaching a lesson to a student to send to my advisor, and since this kid was so nice, I asked him to be my guinea pig. It was difficult, and I had to get the words exactly right, and not move around too much.  Any time either of us got twitchy, I’d turn my phone off, and we’d both stand up and move around.  Then we’d sit back down as if neither of us had moved.

     He crawled out from under the desk and sat across from me.

    “Why did you fail?”

    “How would I know? I was wonderful— you were wonderful. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

    And then he said the thing he always said to me whenever I talked about being dyslexic and ADHD which was a lot. I don’t think you should sugarcoat things for kids, I really don’t.

    “What’s wrong with your brain?”  he said.  

     We both laughed. We did this a lot.

    I failed my graduate program.  I don’t know how he did in his.


Yesterday I heard a radio program with Steve Silberman, author of “Neurotribes:  The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.”  He told a story about being at a conference for people on the Autism spectrum.  All the participants had red, yellow and green badges. Green means you want conversation, red means no conversation or interaction, and yellow, somewhere in between. 

    I thought this was brilliant. It would work for ADHD too.

    I’d like to change red yellow green in elementary school. Give every kindergarten student a set of red, yellow, and green badges. And if you were feeling overwhelmed, or you needed to stop working and move around, or if you just needed to sit under the desk for a while you’d put on the red badge. And later, when you felt like it, you could move your own badge back to yellow, or even green, and your mother wouldn’t have to sign a piece of paper.




The Five Stages of Revision

“Kill your darlings.” It’s the second most quoted piece of writing advice right after “Write what you know.” What doesn’t often get said is that murdering huge chunks of your work to make it better is painful. The slaughter of innocent text leads to long days spent grieving, usually on the couch while binge-watching Netflix.

Until recently, I thought I was immune to the pain of revision. My novel had survived no fewer than four beta rounds on Scribophile, (a fantastic online writer's community, I can't recommend it enough).  I’d spent a month during #Pitchwars doing line to line revisions with a fabulous editor, Marty Mayberry.

When I landed an agent, he sent me a wonderful set of notes. I breezed through his revision notes in under a month, adding an additional seven thousand words to my manuscript. He called my revisions “impeccable.”

When my agent sold my novel, I was prepared to do whatever revision my editor saw fit. Secretly though, I thought the novel was done. My editor couldn’t possibly find anything to fix, because I’m a Jedi master of revision.

Obviously, my novel was already perfect.

And then I read my editor’s revision notes. She thought the ending was “a little rushed.” Furthermore, she noted that a main character, the IMPORTANT AND PIVOTAL BEST FRIEND disappeared from the end of the novel. Kind, helpful revision notes and yet suddenly, I found myself thrust into the five stages of revision. Here they are in order:


My Editor said “this manuscript is in great shape” so that means I’m done, right? These other things are just cosmetic suggestions. I don’t really have to make any substantive changes. I could just cut a few lines here and there and send my manuscript back pretty much the way it is. And anyway, having IMPORTANT AND PIVOTAL BEST FRIEND CHARACTER vanish from the end of a novel could be seen as “delightfully eccentric.” I meant the for the disappearance of IMPORTANT AND PIVOTAL BEST FRIEND CHARACTER to represent the transitory nature of friendship. My editor just doesn’t understand greater literary themes despite her thirty years in the industry. I’ll just explain it to her. *(see note)

*This author in no way condones "explaining" a literary theme to a senior editor at any publishing company. Further, the author suggests that justifying a mistake by saying "I meant to do that", will not fly with your average second grade teacher, and most likely will not impress an editor either.


I don’t want to do any more revisions. How is this even fair? I’ve worked longer on this novel than most astronauts spend training to go into space. No one cares how I suffer as an artist. I work unbelievably hard to make my voice seem effortless, like a chapter is something I just toss off in the morning before coffee and… wait. I think there are ice cream sandwiches in the freezer. Wonder what’s on Netflix this month? ( I have a hard time sustaining anger. Thank you, ADHD.)


Okay, I get that the novel ends abruptly. I understand that I ran out of steam just a bit when I got thirty pages from the end the novel, and it shows. If I give these last thirty pages the same level of attention to detail I gave the rest of the novel, I really shouldn’t have to revisit a major issue in my MC’s relationship with IMPORTANT AND PIVOTAL BEST FRIEND CHARACTER. That should be enough, right?


Writing is hard. Revision is even harder. How does anyone do this? How can I do this? I’m never going to be done. What happens if I don’t finish it? I’m not sure that I could even get off the couch to check my e-mail much less write a solid chapter and…wait. I think there are ice cream sandwiches in the freezer. Wonder what’s on Netflix this month?


This isn’t the first time someone noticed the disappearance of IMPORTANT AND PIVOTAL BEST FRIEND CHARACTER. Beta readers caught it. Now that I look back at my agent’s revision notes, I see that he suggested that I fix this problem. I did a little towards fixing it, but clearly not enough. And really, it’s so much better to fix this now than to have to endure abusive Amazon reviews: “This novel was great until IMPORTANT AND PIVOTAL BEST FRIEND CHARACTER vanished suddenly and without warning. WTF! I mean, really?”In the end, I realized that I’m lucky to have an editor this good. And I have a lot of ideas about how to fix this problem. Right after I eat this ice cream sandwich.



Time Management tools for barbarians


Time Management tools for barbarians

I’m always late. Time is my mortal enemy, my nemesis. I tend to think of time as an elder god left over from a darker, crueler age, much like Crom from Conan the Barbarian.  

Here’s the prayer to Crom from the original Conan the Barbarian movie.:

“No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom; so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!”

Here’s my late for my meeting version of the prayer to Crom.

“No one, not even you, will remember if I was late or early. Why I ventured forth into the world. All that matters is that today, I left the house. That's what's important! Perseverance pleases you, Time; so grant me this one request. Grant me good time in light traffic.  And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!”

Forgive yourself for being late. Gird your loins.  Get on with your day.