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Things Neurodivergent Writers are Sick of Hearing #2: Make Time!




People can be annoying sometimes.


“You have to make time to write.”


Really. Well what if I'm time-blind?


What if I am highly distractible and can suddenly be gripped by the notion to research David Lynch’s inspiration for Twin Peaks or carpal tunnel syndrome or 15th century pancake making?


What if I can get into hyperfocus to the extent that I can ignore a full bladder for hours?


What if my executive function is impaired and I can’t go and grab my jumper from upstairs without picking up five extra must-do jobs on the way and come back downstairs without my jumper?


What if I can be up and down stairs in this manner all day? What then?


But yeah, sure. I’ll make time. Wish I’d thought of that sooner.


Part of the glorious tapestry of neurodivergence is serious difficulty managing time, which overlaps with a general inability to focus, task-switch and organise oneself. For the ND writer this can look like difficulty in getting anything written at all on a daily basis.


For us it’s not as simple as just finding ways to save time so you can prioritise your writing life. It’s all well and good learning hacks to hang clothes more efficiently and setting up systems to shave a few minutes off your morning routine but it rarely does much good. Things have a way of expanding to fill whatever time is left, as Parkinson’s Law reminds us. Trying to save time in this way is pointless for most people, never mind the ND person. Scheduling doesn’t work either, for the same reason. Humans are generally terrible at estimating how long things take and it’s an exceptional person who can “just quickly check” their emails and not still be sitting there an hour later.


But see, here’s my theory about time blindness: I think its the human default position. Time isn’t a real thing after all, not clock time anyway. It’s a product of industrialisation. Before the working poor were lining up to clock in for a miserable day in the mill, they were working in fields without any clue what “time” it was. There was daytime and night time and a sun moving across the sky and a rumbling tummy to tell you when to eat. My view is that the neurotypical brain has been able to adapt to this newfangled minutes and hours nonsense and the neurodivergent brain hasn’t. Time-blindness is only an impairment then because of the way the world is set up.


Anyway.


Time cannot be “found” to write in, like it’s a pen down the back of a sofa, and it cannot be “made” either.


But we are writers, and writing has to happen somehow.


So what can we do?


There’s only one way that works for me and that’s to do it first, before I do anything else. Which I guess is the same as prioritising, but in a really intentional way.


I know some people who prioritise a thing by making it the first thing they account for in their schedule. They “carve out” the time, and somehow magically stick to it. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. ND brains don’t seem to work like that.


Prioritising has to mean that it’s the first thing that gets done every day, not that it’s just the most important thing to do at some point in that day.


It works for me. I get up while the rest of the rabble are still sleeping and I write. The only thing I do first is pour a coffee and let the dog out for a wee (top tip - get yourself an electric coffee pot, a socket timer and make your coffee the night before. Life saver.) Anything else beyond that means I get distracted, so no risky “just” emptying the dryer or “just” checking Twitter.


No.


NO. NO. NO.


Being absolutely knackered at half five in the morning actually helps. I go zombie-like from bed to coffee pot to back door to kitchen table where my notebook and pens are and I’m writing before my brain wakes up and starts pulling its stupid shit on me.


If it doesn’t happen first thing, people, it’s unlikely to happen at all. There are occasions when I’m able to shut the door later in the day, put the world on silent and ignore all the other open tabs in my head (usually when there’s some other motivating factor, like a deadline for example) but I can’t rely on that if I want to be consistent. It really is more about stubbornness and mindset. I kind of see my morning writing as not really part of the day at all. It’s like a strangely suspended twilight zone that happens before the real day begins.


Some people swear by writing at night. Tried this, can’t do it. I’m so wiped out by the day, especially if I’ve had a lot of social interaction (eeeew) I’m good for nothing by seven except watching Cats does Countdown.


So that’s my advice: do it first. Don’t try to slide it between other stuff, because other stuff has a habit of getting out of hand.


And as ever, keep writing, my friends.


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