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Let’s talk about writing and now.

What is now? When is now?

Having ADHD can be a weird experience when you start to think of things like time, time management and deadlines. We don’t do well with them. Ask anyone with ADHD to get something done with a deadline and you’ll see them apparently frantically scrambling last minute to get it completed.


Now vs. Not-Now

There are two times for someone with ADHD, now and not-now.

We live in the now, and everything else is the not-now, which means it doesn’t exist. Ask us to prepare something for Tuesday of next week on Thursday, and if it’s not immediately in a calendar, we’ll probably forget the request by the end of the day. It’s not that we don’t want to do it, far from it. It just happens that next Tuesday isn’t now and therefore, it doesn’t exist.

So, let’s talk about Now

When I sat down to write this blog post, I was thinking about something my daughter said the other day, which I’ll get to, but now that I’m typing away without a plan, I’m reminded of something else…

Spaceballs - When is Now Now?
When is then now? Now!

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching Mel Brook’s hilarious Spaceballs, this scene has Dark Helmet and Colonel Harland Sandurz previewing a VHS copy of the movie Spaceballs. As they fast-forward to the scene where they are watching the scene, the concept of now is discussed, making everyone’s brain twitch a little as they try to understand when exactly is now?

I know, Meta, right?

Let’s talk about ADHD and Now

But honestly this is how my brain works most of the time. When I talked about time blindness in another post, I mention clock watching. Clock watching is my own personal battle against now. If I didn’t look at the clock consistently, I don’t think I’d be on time for anything, since it’s always now in my mind.

So when is not-now?

I don’t know.


But it’s probably soon.

There’s a vague concept of the not-now that exists for me. I know that later today, I need to make dinner. When? Not-now. I know that at some point, I need to walk the dog. When? Not-now. I know that my wife’s birthday is coming up. When? Not-now.

But I had better not wait till now for that one.

Let’s talk about bracelets for a second

Back to the story of my daughter.

She came home from school with an amazing idea. She and a friend are going to make and sell bracelets, necklaces and other trinkets to raise money for our local foodbank. The plan is to make one hundred of these bracelets and sell them at the school’s movie night for a dollar each and donate the proceeds. I sat with her and wrote out a little table of items vs. price vs. total profits.

It was great!

And I knew it was an effort in total futility.

Live in the now, man!

Party on, Garth!

She was living in the now with no consideration for the not-now. When would she make them? How would she reach out to the foodbank and tell them this was happening? It’s not like I didn’t prompt her and ask. There was hand waving and vagueness. It would get done at some point. She smiled and went to bed happy that her plan was done in the now.

My wife asked me the next day if I thought our daughters plan would come to fruition.

“No way in hell,” was my answer.

To her the plan was done, the now had moved on to another topic. Something more pressing and more important, because in the now, there’s only what is currently happening. The not-now is forgotten. Maybe she’ll surprise me and remember, start making bracelets, start getting things ready. And if not, I’ll remind her now and then about what she said she’d do, and maybe she’ll be motivated to complete the task. But I don’t hold out high hopes, and it’s not me being despairing of my kid, far from it. I just know what it’s like to live in the now, and I have learned to accept what it means.

The not-now does not exist.

So, is there an upside?

There is!

Living in the now, and having the ability to hyperfocus, makes people with ADHD superheroes when it comes to getting stuff done at the last minute. And I’m not talking about slapping lipstick on a pig and calling it a blue ribbon poodle. (I have no idea where that imagery came from.)

Once a deadline in the not-now approaches and comes into the now, we are in our element. Pulling together a plan, getting the pieces in place and executing on the process in a way that gives good results triggers what our brains craves, the hit of dopamine that we search for. We can also do a terrible job and get no reward, but that doesn’t help us, so we strive to do our best.

Often we’re told we’re procrastinating, lazy or lacking in motivation, but none of that is true. We’re just in our own version of the now, and those other things might exist in the not-now, but we’re not in the not-now, we’re in the now. Right now. Which just became then. And not now is now-now.

See how confusing that is?

Let’s talk about writing and now

Writing is tough when I try to plan it out.

I have all the best intensions of sitting down at this time and this place and getting reams of words on paper. I have the story in my head, I’ve seen the movie play out in my mind, and I know what’s going to happen. But that happened in the not-now.

The now has something different going on. Chores, hyper-focusing on something that isn’t useful, or working on the business side of writing can jump in to the now and take up my time.

And why?

Because those things are critical at the time. Looking at a pile of dishes in the now makes me want to get them done. Since the not-now doesn’t exist, I don’t have any other time to do them. Doom scrolling through the latest shorts on YouTube gives me the dopamine hit I’m looking for and I get lost in the now. Working on promotions on social media or writing this blog post means that people will get interested in my work. The more people are engaged, the more I’m rewarded for it. Bam, dopamine hit!

Writing take a long time and the rewards are in the not-now, so it’s difficult to get into the groove of it. To see the benefits that will come from it. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, it’s just really tough to get into gear in the now.

What to do about writing in the now?

Luckily, I’ve had the chance to do something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT for short. A blog post on that will come soon!

With it, I had the chance to learn and practice new ways to see myself, how I deal with time blindness and living in the now. Applying lessons learned, like setting up alarms and gamification of my writing, has helped me to see that there are ways to bring writing into the now without feeling like I’m missing out on other things. And experiencing delayed gratification from all you wonderful people reading my book, following me on social media, and even reaching out via email helps to drive home the idea that the not-now contains important tasks that need to be completed.

And while I can’t say that it’s worked one hundred percent of the time, I feel like it’s a step in the right direction for me, to help me to see more clearly into the not-now and better organize the now.

I have big plans for this year, and the only way to accomplish them is to use the time I have to the best of my abilities, and now is the time to do it.

Now, to find a gift for my wife’s birthday…

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