Posted On October 13, 2017 by Print This Post

Tips to Battle Procrastination From an ADHD Writer – by Amalie Berlin

Happy Friday and thanks for joining us today. Please welcome Visiting Professor Amalie Berlin.

First, a couple disclaimers:

I’m not a doctor. I don’t know all there is to know about ADHD. What works for me (Inattentive ADHD) may work not work for you hyperactive folks. And it might seem like complete chaos to you normal folks… I don’t know. Not a doctor.

As I’m Inattentive, my procrastination tends to be about my brain deciding to not pay attention to certain things for reasons. That means I must get TRICKSY to deal with those problems. What follows are some of my tricks and why they help me.

Mortal Enemy #1: Overwhelm! This is the big hairy beast in the corner. When I get overwhelmed or intimidated by something, it’s darned near impossible for me to focus on it long enough to make any sort of progress. Overwhelm leads to defeatist thinking, leads to more overwhelm… It’s a nasty cycle.

Mortal Enemy #2: Perfectionism! Guess what people who have attention issues all have in common? We’re really used to being considered lazy, lazy, failures who refuse to live up to our potential. When we’re doing something subjective, the idea that it won’t live up to everyone’s expectations, that someone might (will) look at this beautiful mess we made and think: What a lazy loser this writer is…? That’s a big ole reason not to do it—there are a million other things I could be inadequately doing that are far less taxing. (This really is a subset of #1 because all roads seem to lead right back to Overwhelm…)

The Battle Plans

Make Boredom Into a Weapon

The trick here is not to cultivate boredom in your project, but in your distractions. This only works if your method of cultivating boredom doesn’t feel like punishment. It just has to be less exciting than thinking about your story might be. Tall order? Yes. Or no. Not for me. My secret weapon is Netflix: shows I genuinely like but have seen a bunch of times. That’s right, I’m making reruns work for me. The fifth time I’ve seen that particular episode of Forensic Files? My attention is going to drift, as long as I don’t have something else to play with–games, knitting, the kitten, seeing I can write my name while holding the pen in my toes(YEP). You get what I’m saying. When I get moderately bored with a show, my attention usually drifts, and if allowed will sail right into storyland. Daydreaming leads to ideas, leads to grabbing a pen document the brilliance for posterity. Putting pen to paper to capture lightning can lead to a whole creative storm. Snippets of dialogue or inspirational imagery excite me, and soon I’m drafting a scene or an outline or researching what you call those sofas where the back pillows aren’t attached because that’s the kind of sofa my heroine just told me she wants. Whatever. Stuff that will be handy at some point in the story, all because I’m bored with the episode of Forensic Files where they identified the killer by his toe prints in the hamburger buns. (Really, that’s an episode.)

Breaking Things For Fun and Profit

Cleaning the whole kitchen sounds like a horrible job that will take DECADES. Right? But I can totally run a sink full of soapy water and throw in some silverware. That’s easy. Once I’ve done that, I can wash a handful of peanut-buttery spoons. One handful, that’s doable. Then maybe another, because my hands are already soapy and gross. If I wash one spoon, I may feel emboldened to take on another doom-crusted utensil. Breaking big jobs into small parts makes them less scary. AKA: Why I’m a plotter. I know that’s going to hurt you pantsers out there, but I’m a plotter because I have to be a plotter. If I have to write a whole book? There’s just no way that’s going to happen, even if I did just turn in my 12th contracted book. I’ll never be able to pull off Lucky #13. But one scene? Totally doable. (Unless it’s a sex scene and then sometimes I have to write “Insert sex scene here” and move on to something I am in the mood for.)

Misbehave. That thing they told you not to do? Do the thing.

Sure, you may have to revise the thing out later. But? If you’re having fun swearing like a sailor in this book targeted to sweet category romance, you let that potty-mouth run. Embrace whatever is giving you joy, because it’s fun, and fun is the opposite of work. Fun comes without pressure or expectations. Fun will get you writing. Later, yeah, it’ll suck when you have to have to take out your best Christmas Porn jokes(not that I’d know anything about that), but Revising is a different beasty than Writing, and we gotta take this one problem at a time. (See: Overwhelm)

Make a List of the Funs & the Hards

So, you have five scenes to write and it all seems like too much for reasons. I want you to think about what will be fun about writing each scene(one at a time), and what will be hard. List as many Funs and Hards as you feel like for each scene, and start with the one with the most Funs and fewest Hards. You don’t have to write your scenes in order. You can revise for continuity later. One problem at a time! Still feel like too much? Okay, what one thing do you think you’ll enjoy writing in this scene? Got a great first line? A zinger your heroine can smack the hero with somewhere? Look for ways to make a mess of things, because making a mess leads to conflict, which makes a scene move and is much more fun to write. Eventually you’ll have to write the scenes with fewer Funs and more Hards, but by then, you’ll likely have thought of ways to increase the Funs, or have solved whatever problems created the Hards in the first place. Even if your process means you must take the scenes in order, knowing from the jump what the is making you not want to write this particular scene—what is sucking the fun out of it—will give you an in for fixing it. As I learned watching GI Joe as a kid: Knowing, is half the battle! (Though, I do think their math might be a little off there…half? Maybe a third…Which really doesn’t flow. #NevermindIt’sAHalf.)

Hope this helped! If you have any procrastination-busting tips, I would love to know them. Because I will try anything. Really. (Toes!) If you can give me a solid reason why it will be easier to write if I’m wearing a bikini made of poison ivy and road kill… I’m gonna try it. Probably. Unless it’s too hard to find the ingredients for my PoisonIvyRoadkillkini.

Happy Writing! 😊



THE PRINCE’S CINDERELLA BRIDE [Harlequin – September 2017]

Prince Quinton Corlow’s life was turned upside down the day his divorce was filed and his military papers were executed. Seven years later, the embittered soldier returns, only to walk straight back into his ex-wife’s life!

But when Quinn discovers he’s still married to the one woman who could claim his heart, he realizes he must tackle the past for the future he wants…the future Anais wants, too. But can he convince his Cinderella bride to fight for their love?


Bio: Amalie lives with her family and critters in Southern Ohio, and she writes quirky, independent characters for Harlequin Medical Romance. Her favorite stories buck expectations with unusual settings and situations, and the belief that humor can powerfully illuminate truth-especially when juxtaposed against intense emotions. And that love is stronger and more satisfying when your partner can make you laugh through the times you don’t have the luxury of tears.

Connect with Amalie: Website | Facebook

Similar Posts:

Share Button

Craft of Writing


6 Responses to “Tips to Battle Procrastination From an ADHD Writer – by Amalie Berlin”

  1. It’s so reassuring to know I’m not the only one who has to use tricks like this!

    My family doesn’t understand how I can watch one movie every day for weeks. It’s not that I’m watching it, it’s that I’m using it to let my attention focus elsewhere! 🙂

    Posted by Nicole | October 13, 2017, 8:27 am
    • I know, just telling people I do these things was hard, because I know folks who just don’t get it are going to be like… What is she, five!?

      But you have to work with what you have. There are benefits to being ADHD(supercharged creativity being one of them), but you have to learn to work around the less awesome aspects 🙂

      Find out what works for you and run with it. It can be kind of hard figure out since you have to be paying enough attention to realize what was going on around you while you got some work done–making notes about every work session will help you spot patterns. Once you know what helped this or that time, put it in the toolbox.

      I’m currently buying different fidget toys in the hopes of saving my nail polish… because if I don’t have something to fidget with, that nail polish is comin’ off. *scratchscrapefidgetscratch*

      Posted by Amalie Berlin | October 13, 2017, 12:26 pm
  2. This article really hit a nerve. I am currently fighting overwhelm and perfectionism. I’ll have to try your suggestions.

    Posted by Chris Bridges | October 13, 2017, 2:25 pm
    • The smaller the pieces I can break big scary tasks into, the easier it is. I also use a kitchen timer, and set the time depending on my level of resistence. Kinda blah? 20 minutes. Fullblown-freak-out? 5 minutes. Usually, I get to the end and keep going, but if those 5 minutes were torture, I watch YouTube for 10-15 minutes (or take a walk, or weed a row in the garden) and then give it another go.

      Some days, I get to eat a fabulous whole sandwich, other days I choke down one bite of a strawberry-mayonnaise-pickled-onions sandwich and do whatever possible afterward clean my palete. Some days I totally fail to get anything done, and just have to regroup for the next day. Figuring out the *reasons* for my aversion has gone a long way toward helping, but I’m always going to be a work in progress on this.

      One bite at a time, that’s how you eat the elephant. You can do it!

      Posted by Amalie Berlin | October 13, 2017, 2:57 pm
  3. THANK YOU for this!! Glad to know there are other ADHD authors out there who know the struggle — especially the OVERWHELM (yup!).

    I’m going to add all your ideas to the toolkit. Here’s what’s in there right now:

    I create fake deadlines for myself to trick my brain into the overdrive-panic mode where I can bust out 3x as many words as usual. I need that adrenaline rush!

    Also, setting mini-goals along the way is my catnip; I use Scrivner’s “Project Target” function and every time I hit a small goal (even like 500 words) I reward myself with a guilty pleasure, like scrolling through Facebook for 30 minutes.

    Finally, when I’m feeling super overwhelmed by the blank page, I’ll get myself “feeling like a writer” by reading articles (like this one) on RU, or blog posts by other authors I follow. That way I trick my brain into feeling like I’m in the writing zone via osmosis of others’ writer-ly words.


    Posted by Kitt Masters | October 18, 2017, 3:17 pm
    • I’m glad that it’s helping some other people! Because it is kind of scary to admit that I am this much of a hot mess—I like to at least look like I have my crap together, but when you’re writing a book in five days because you couldn’t get any traction until you were able to harness that panic-induced super-human focus… people start to figure it out.

      I learned the hard way that kind of writing schedule wrecks me and takes literal months to recover from to even contemplate another project. Hence this year’s quest to understand why I do the things I do, and put together a toolbox of work arounds. I’m proud to say it took me three whole weeks to write the last book! And I feel so much better about my writing on the other side than the past several books, it’s mind blowing.

      Your ability to fake a deadline is awesome. I tried that early on—setting fake deadlines—but it did not work for me. It’s like when I used to set my clocks 15 minutes faster to try and get places on time, I always knew that clock was 15 minutes off, and did the math. Late anyway! For a while(when I had a day job), I would set the clock, and then close my eyes and hold down the button to click up the minutes… for several seconds, then turn over and go to sleep without ever looking at the clock. That way I couldn’t do the math… It might be five minutes fast, it might be 25 minutes fast, I had no idea! Worked a little better… I do wish I could trick myself in those ways, but then I am glad to be weaning myself off the adrenalin junkie writing sprints for my own creative well-being haha 😊

      Mini goals are great. I don’t do word counts, I do minutes writing. I’ve discovered that knowing I have to write 3000 (or 6000) words in one day locks me up(Overwhelm!!), but knowing I have to write this scene, and that scene… I’m okay with that because I can picture those scenes, where I can’t picture 5000 words… So I just go for my kitchen timer and set anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes, and if I get to the end and want nothing but to stop writing, I stop. For a bit. And have a little reward 😊

      I also trick myself into feeling like a writer, but by reading some of my previous books to sort of remind myself that I am capable of it. The doubt weasels are super bitey things, it’s easy to forget your strengths when that internal echo is just about your shortcomings/failures.

      Thank you for sharing your tips!

      Posted by Amalie Berlin | October 20, 2017, 12:51 pm

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts





Follow Us