Let's Talk About Writing And RSD logo

Let’s talk about writing and RSD.

For those of you that know me, and know me well, it probably comes as no surprise that I live with ADHD. In hindsight, it explains so much. From my inability to keep a hobby longer than a month to the way I was constantly switching jobs, ADHD invisibly shaped my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It created a set of coping mechanisms, some good and some bad, that allowed me to live my life with outward appearance of normality. 

There are tons of books on the subject of working and living with ADHD, YouTube channels with tips and tricks on coping with it, and even TikToks about how “quirky” we can be. (Is burning dinner on the stove because you’re hyper-focusing on something else in another room, really that quirky?)

But what is it like writing full time and having ADHD?

I’ll be posting on this regularly; the good, the bad, and the … what was I saying again?

Oh, right!

ADHD in itself is both a blessing and a curse. I can sit at my desk for hours and pump out a thousand words an hour when hyper-focusing on it. I can also sit at my desk for hours, hyper-focusing on doodling on a piece of paper, never writing a single word. That in itself can be annoying, but throw into the mix some of ADHD’s comorbidities and it really gets complicated. 

So, let’s talk about RSD

People ask me why I waited until I was in my 40s to start writing. The truth is, I didn’t. Let me introduce an ADHD comorbidity called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria or RSD for short. RSD makes rejection in any form emotionally and physically painful, and those who have it avoid situations where we know there’s any risk of rejection. It’s the reason why, even as I write this, my stomach is cramping because I’m convinced that readers will reject what I’m saying. That you’ll think I’m just making it up to get hits on my site. Or that you are all going to cancel me.

It’s the reason why I’ve decided to self-publish my work since I can’t bear to see the rejection letters from publishers. Why pitch the book and risk the pain of being rejected? It applies to everyday things as well; making phone calls, asking for help, even what to make for dinner. Some people might say I’m overreacting to these situations, but I don’t have the emotional control to stop it. 

Let’s talk about writing and RSD

So what does RSD have to do with when I started to write? When I was a kid, I wrote a lot. I used to sit at our old Pentium 90 and bang out story after story. They were my stories though, and I kept them to myself, out of fear that people wouldn’t like them. Hello RSD! Then one day, I wrote a thrilling spy tale. It was long too, 40 pages on the dot matrix printer. This was my best work, as far as I was concerned, and I decided to risk it and show it to my teacher. 

I stapled it together, put it in my backpack and gave it to them during lunch break. I spent the next few days feeling sick to my stomach, wondering what they thought and how it would be received. They never brought it up though, so one day I summoned the courage and asked what they thought of it. “It wasn’t that good,” came the reply. 

I understand now that “it wasn’t that good” is far from a bad review, but to 11 year old me, it was as if they’d told me it was unreadable and was the worst piece of trash ever made. In fact, it was enough to make me stop writing altogether. Sure, I wrote stuff for school when it was needed, but I never again wrote something for myself, something that was for my own entertainment, something that came from my imagination. 

Until the pandemic, that is.

Taking A Risk

Talking with some friends about story ideas one day, the tale of a werewolf that worked at a drive-thru during the nightshift came up. The idea was fun, and it made the cogs in my brain start turning. The next day, I hyper-focused and wrote the first 3 chapters of what would become my first novel. It was as if some door had been thrown open and all this backed up creativity started to flow. I quickly wrote more; short stories, novellas and finished the novel. 

I took the risk and decided to put my work out into the world. It took a lot of emotional effort on my part. The hesitation to press the “Publish” button on the tool I use to write lasted for weeks. But finally with the support of family and friends, I clicked on it. 

And you know what? It wasn’t as bad as I built it up to be in my mind.

That’s not to say that I’m over my RSD. I still have issues with rejection. That’s not something that will go away anytime soon. But I’m working on it, and moving towards a place where I can more easily recover from the sense of rejection and not let it stop me from doing something I enjoy for 30 or so years.

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Writing And RSD

  1. Marjan

    Hi Matt
    Thanks for writing this. Resonates a lot. I dealt with RSD and writing by turning to non-fiction — there at least most of what I write isn’t “just” a product of my imagination.
    By the way, you say you finished the novel. So where is it? 🙂
    Love, Marjan

    1. Matthew Villeneuve

      I guess it depends on which “novel” you’re talking about.
      Eileen’s Promise is available through the website, and I have several novellas and novels in different states of completion.
      I hope to have a longer novel out soon!

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