Let's Talk About Writing And time blindness logo

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

“Why did the kid throw his clock out a window? ‘Cause he wanted to see time fly!”

Well kid, no need to defenestrate a defenseless timepiece. All you need is ADHD! Since our executive function is wonky, our ability to track time is less than stellar. So let’s talk about ADHD, writing and time blindness.

Let’s talk about ADHD and time blindness

As someone who lived with undiagnosed ADHD for 4 decades, I always felt that time was against me. Writing essays, doing homework, getting to work, finishing tasks were all struggles that I developed deeply ingrained coping mechanisms to battle them with. Clock watching has become one of my favorite pastimes. To this day, I will still look at the clock minutes after having just checked it to see where I sit in the vast space/time continuum.

And it’s incredibly annoying.

Here’s my favorite example of how my time blindness coping mechanisms actually make my life more difficult than it should be. I start doing stuff at about 8:30 in the morning most days. This includes my daily chores of making beds and putting away clean dishes. This takes me roughly fifteen minutes to finish. When I’m done, I will stare at the clock. And every single time I think to myself, “That took so long, now I only have 3 hours till lunch. Then 5 hours after that till the end of the day. How will I get everything done on my list?” I believe that if something isn’t done instantaneously, then I’ve somehow failed.

So instead of ignoring the list of things that needs to be done, I’ve become hyper sensitive to the amount of time I have to complete all the tasks. It feels like I’m in a race against myself, and no matter who passes the finish line first, I’m still going to end up the loser.

Then there’s the other side of time blindness, where I think something will be quicker than it actually is. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve said dinner will be ready in twenty minutes only have it on the table an hour or more later, the family howling for food as I try not to serve them something that might make them sick.

FUN!

So, is there an upside?

Kind of.

Some of my time blindness coping mechanisms are actually helpful. I keep alarms on my phone to remind me when things need to happen and these work great. Until they don’t. Once the novelty of the alarm has worn off (another part of ADHD) they just become background noise. I have no problem dismissing it and forgetting ever happened. Luckily there are several apps on the market that can help with this. LifeUp*, turns the tasks you have into a game. You get that precious dopamine hit every time you finish something and get a small digital prize!

And as for dinner taking so much longer than I thought, I’ve learned to start dinner at least an hour earlier than before. I figure it’s better to warm something back up then it is to eat something half cooked!

Another interesting coping mechanism I have developed is being early for everything. I’ve discovered that I would rather sit in the car or in a lobby for fifteen minutes than show up late and have people upset at me. That, of course, causes my RSD to kick in, and I have a whole post on why that sucks.

Let’s talk about Writing and Time Blindness

Like most of ADHD’s foibles, time blindness has both upsides and downsides when it comes to writing. Writing is a creative outlet, and for me, it’s a huge hit of dopamine, which is what people with ADHD crave. Finishing Eileen’s Promise was a massive undertaking, and the feeling I got from actually putting it out there was something I can’t wait to experience again.

Since I know that writing will give me what my brain is craving, I can easily sit and write for 8 hours straight, ignoring what is going on around me and going into a sort of trance. At these times, I can write a thousand words an hour and go through chapters like they were paragraphs. But it also means that I have no concept of time passing when in this state. I forget to do things like taking food out of the freezer for dinner, or having lunch, or getting up and stretching. While this can have a negative impact on me, I love this mode, where words flow and stories just come to life, so I take the good with the bad.

Of course, the opposite can happen. Like right now. I haven’t sat down to write anything new in a few days.

Wait.

What?

You mean it’s been almost 3 months since I wrote something that was new and not just editing old stories? Well, that is disappointing. Oh, and also you say it’s been a month since I edited anything as well? Well, that’s just sad.

***(editor’s note: since writing this and before posting, I’ve edited half a novella!)***

Let’s check the time!

It’s important to note that time blindness, like a lot of ADHD symptoms, is not something we take lightly. We know we can’t “fix” it and we try our best to be in control of it. Those of us with ADHD don’t mean to be late to events, to serve dinner burnt, or to get into a groove that means we work for twelve hours straight without a break. This is just as inconvenient to us as it is to you.

There are ways we can help ourselves, such as using alarms or other tools to schedule our day, keeping a list of tasks that needs to be completed daily, or even doing something as simple as asking a loved one to tap us on the shoulder every now and then to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and keeping on task.

Thanks, loved ones!

And… looking at the clock now, it would appear I’m late for lunch!

*I was not being paid to endorse LifeUp, it’s a tool I’ve used in my every day life

4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Writing and Time Blindness

  1. Amelinda

    Eeeeeeyup sounds familiar ? Habitica is another widget to gamify your to do list – you get XP, items, pets, etc and take a hit for tasks you don’t complete, and can team up w friends to form a “party”.

    I find the trouble is the shiny new widget only works for so long and then, like alarms, it becomes background noise. This drives me bonkers (WHY can I find nothing that WORKS) but stumbled across a recent tiktok that pointed out you just have to accept that you’re going to have to rotate your coping mechanisms on the reg, so keep an eye out for new ones. Which sounds obvious, but somehow it kinda blew my mind!!

    1. Matthew Villeneuve

      I totally get that. I have honestly stopped using LifeUp because the novelty wore off.
      I’ll look up Habitica, since it sounds like another thing to get me through a few weeks, or months, hopefully!

  2. Marjan

    Yes. I too have found that gamification apps don’t do much for me. Good to hear I’m not the only one.
    Here’s an idea get enough of these apps to last you a year of getting bored with them. May amp up the novelty factor when you get back to one you used before. May not.
    Worth an experiment, maybe?

    1. Matthew Villeneuve

      Could be worth trying, but that’s a lot of applications on a phone.
      I’ve found that going back to good old fashioned pen and paper lists is the best for me.
      The daily routine of getting a list made and then completing it gives me the dopamine hit I need!

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