Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

ADHD and Unfinished Personal Projects

I have hundreds of unfinished personal projects and I have ADHD. From what I understand about ADHD, and from what I have read, I should be upset about unfinished personal projects. However, I am a writer and writing has taught me an extremely valuable lesson and that is: 

Finishing everything I start writing is nearly impossible and, not everything that’s started is meant to be finished. Sometimes what I start is meant to take me somewhere else, to get me past a hump or lead me to deeper thoughts or inspiration.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that I am talking about personal projects here. Not jobs. That’s for another post.

As a writer I have some great ideas about things I want to write about. I’ll start writing perhaps ten pages about something intensely interesting and then the next morning I will discard it for something else. What I have learned is that not every draft needs to be completed and published. That’s somewhat the way I view personal projects as well. The thing is that I may start out writing about something very interesting and then halfway through I will come up with another idea, an even better ‘thing’ to write about. But, if I had not started writing the first draft, it would not have led me to the even better idea, thought or concept.

Interestingly, by going off track there have been occasions when I have actually gone back to something I originally started, but with a better perspective or insight only because I went off track

That’s the thing about personal projects, sometimes we will finish them, but mostly we won’t. And unless it’s washing the dishes or doing the laundry, it’s not always a bad thing to not finish them. Writing has proved to me time and time again that I might start out from one idea, but it was just a tool my mind used to get me to the next, even better idea and then an article or a book may form from it. I have also combined old ideas with new ideas. However, when I force myself to stick with the original idea (which is what we have been taught to do) my writing becomes passionless, pointless and stagnant. Not only do I no longer feel what I am writing, but I miss out on the better idea. Because the thing is, when ideas, concepts and thoughts come to us they want to be acted upon in some way and it’s not like we choose to suddenly have a new idea or breakthrough (darn us!), when we let them go, to ‘stick to it’ we tend to lose them, or at least, I do.

I’ve learned that I do not need to finish every personal project I start and if I don’t finish one, or two or a hundred, I am not going to beat myself up about them anymore. I am going to move on to the next one and, from time to time, I am going to finish a really good one. In the thousands of writing projects I have started, I have finished about 10% of them and I am very happy with that 10%, for the most part. I admit some of the 10% are monumental disasters, but hey, that’s life and that’s also the great thing about ‘piles’! The 10% that are terrible I put in a pile somewhere and they will never been seen or read, ever.

The thing I realize is that without those other 90% uncompleted projects, I would have never come up with the 10% that I did complete. Think about it the next time you leave a personal project behind for another one, and another  – where are you going, where are you being led? If you consider that, you might, just maybe, discover something wonderful – not everything is meant to be finished, the starting of it may only be the impetus, that’s all, and, that’s a lot!

I tend to think sometimes we get stuck because we are taught to ‘stick to it’ and will punish ourselves for not completing the personal project we started, or someone else gets upset because we have so many unfinished projects around the house, or in the garage, on the desk, or in the bedroom (perhaps even on the bed), and we are again told ‘finish what you start’, but the mind of an ADDer doesn’t usually work by starting with the final idea, it comes up with many other ideas along the way that help form the eventual idea that will be finished, and it might  be a long time to get there. There are those that will say this process is not effective – so what? It doesn’t have to be, it’s a personal project. There will be those who say we must manage our time with such projects better and complete the first before moving to the next. If I did that I would stop writing, because that would steal all the joy and wonder out of it. 

Have you started a project that you did not finish, but it led you to something better? Or, have you discovered that sometimes it is not the ‘finishing’ of a project that brings joy, but rather the process itself?

Head’s up: do not use this post to explain why you didn’t finish the dishes. That fish won’t swim. You might want to get back to that project. At least, that’s what I am planning to do when I am finished with this.