During an interview recently, I was asked to discuss how I used my natural ADHD ability to Hyper Focus to help me write my life’s story in One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir. I’ve written about it before, but I thought I would write about it again. There are few things I enjoy more than hyper focusing and writing, together they are sublime. I consider the ability to tune out the world and hyper focus a wonderful trait and it is very difficult to clarify to anyone who doesn’t have ADHD. It’s very similar to meditating, but whereas with meditation you are basically trying to relax and tune out the world while thinking of nothing, hyper focusing is similar, but instead of doing nothing one is able to complete tasks, even extremely complex tasks.
There are, of course, some serious drawbacks to hyper focusing. Therefore, I have devised some ways to circumvent those drawbacks. Forgetting time is probably the most serious drawback. I use repeat alarms on my phone for when I need to accomplish something else or for appointments. I also set limits on the time I will allow myself to hyper focus. Setting limits on how long you will allow yourself to enjoy the ability to hyper focus is especially important if you are married, because it is very easy to get trapped in one’s own mind and forget about where you are and what time it is. That’s not something someone else who wants to spend time with you will appreciate and they are likely to think you are ignoring them, or that you simply do not want to enjoy their company. Remember also, that people without ADHD may not believe you when you try to explain what hyper focusing is and may believe that since you have tuned them out that you did it purposely. I enjoy hyper focusing and I do enjoy forgetting time and allowing myself to relish in it, but I enjoy being married too!
Okay, back to answering the question:
Hyper focusing helps me write in several ways. It helps me not be self-critical while writing, in other words it gives me the freedom to simply write my thoughts from mind to paper without a filter. I make it a point to write what I think, what I believe and I do so regardless if anyone will agree with me or not. I enjoy when others relate to what I write and I have found that when I allow myself to just let go without restrictions of my own critical mind, or what anyone has suggested, people relate much more intimately. Notice I enjoy having people relate to what I have written, which basically means they relate to my experiences, but that doesn’t mean everything I write has been agreed with or appreciated. There is a very easy way to keep one’s self from hyper focusing on their writing and that is trying to appease anyone, besides when I try to do that how can I be honest at the same time? This aspect of hyper focusing was essential to writing my life story, because there are several things I revealed about myself and my life that had I seriously considered the ramifications of putting those things out there I probably would not have been able to shed them so transparently.
Another way hyper focusing helps me with my writing is that it allows me to ‘go there’. My imagination is much more vivid than just day dreaming per se, I can actually watch full blown, detailed movies in my own head. When I hyper focus I can also go back to specific situations and relive them. Doing that can be extremely painful, or in some cases, very pleasant, but more importantly it allows me to write my emotions as ‘they are’ and allow you to have a glimpse into my feelings. In many reviews of One Boy’s Struggle people have said they have cried and ‘felt’ my pain, and they also mention that they ‘felt’ my joy with diagnosis etc. The reason for that is because when I hyper focus I can ‘go there’ and directly transfer my thoughts to the page. I actually do not even think about the writing while I am writing. I taught myself how to type and I can do so without ever considering that I am actually typing. I guess that’s also why I have become so prolific, which trust me, is another subject and also relates to my ADHD traits.
To help give you an idea how I can transfer my emotions to my writing while hyper focusing, Tara McGillicuddy in her review of my book said it is a great book and she highly recommends it, but she also gave a warning: “Just a word of warning: The book can bring up a lot of emotion while reading it. It can trigger some unpleasant memories. If you grew up struggling with undiagnosed ADHD like Bryan and I did, be prepared to stir up some of those memories while reading One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir: Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD.”
Tara’s review was the first time I fully realized what I had unintentionally did and why some people were reacting to it so emotionally. – Thx Tara!
Hyper focusing enables me to not be distracted by the TV, music or people dancing in the room! Seriously, this is an amazing aspect of having ADHD that a lot of folks just don’t get unless they experience it. People with ADHD are typically distracted easily, but when in hyper focus mode, we have to be very careful because we might not hear a car horn! CRRAAASH! Brush yourself off, get back up and keep walking, if you can. Seriously, well actually, I was being serious, but to move on, when I am in hyper focus mode I can just write, write, write and write some more, and I have been known to burn spaghetti noodles and let tea water boil until there is none left! Don’t worry, when Joan catches those things she has a way of snapping me out of hyper focus in a split second! She does worry about it when she’s not home, though… I have an ironing board story, but alas, let’s move on.
When I am writing and not in hyper focus mode I tend to surf the web, check the TV stations, flip through books on my desk and do all sorts of stuff and then wonder why I haven’t written as much as usual. Go figure.
Hyper focusing can be a serious challenge and yet, it can also be one of the marvelous gifts of having ADHD. It’s amazing when we turn things around, which when left unchecked they can cause absolute and utter destruction; however, when taken in with some learned control, make them into something useful. Isn’t it? I think so, but let’s not forget I spent most of my life with my hyper focus out of control. What a major difference self education with diagnosis can be! But, don’t tell that to the ironing board!
Have you used Hyper Focusing to your benefit? If so, please share with me how. I’d love to know.
If you’re interested in more information or my thoughts on Hyper Focusing, please see my ebook about my 8 Steps how to Super Focus at will.