There is so much advice online for authors. The vast majority of it always seems to be focused on neurotypical authors. It’s something I’ve always found to be quite frustrating.
Much of that advice is often something that is no help to me at all. In fact, I’ve usually found it can be detrimental to my writing process. So I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve found work for me.
I’m not an expert in anything aside from my own process.
1. If writing blog posts feels like too much? Do bullet points.
2. Make a daily to-do lists and if even one thing is crossed off–that’s a win.
3. Do creative work in the morning. I seem to be at my most creative early in the day. Whatever your ‘on’ time is, do the writing stuff then.
4. If editing is causing anxiety, do one edit/one page/fix one issue per day until it’s done.
5. Using Pomodoro Study With Me videos as a way to get things done when I’m struggling to focus:
6. If emails are stressing me out, I close out my inbox. I’ve found the majority of emails can wait. The world doesn’t end if I can’t respond immediately.
7. Boundaries matter.
8. No matter what ‘all the experts’ say. I have to find a way to make social media work for me.
9. Some days, I just can’t write. There’s no shame in taking a break.
I took four days off social media a few weeks ago. I was finding myself completely overwhelmed. Something I’ve always struggled with, but since 2020 it’s only gotten worse. So I gave myself permission to take a break.
I thought I’d share a few things that I learned in those four days.
I check Social Media, Twitter especially, far too often.
I have no need for social media apps on my phone. And I’ve removed them.
A constant deluge of ‘news’ is terrible for my mental health.
The world didn’t end because I wasn’t immediately informed of things happening.
I am in control of my social media timeline. There’s nothing wrong with muting/blocking people and tags. Boundaries are healthy.
The biggest takeaway for me was that I need to be giving myself a break from social media more often. I never realized how often I was just doomscrolling for no reason at all. So I’m trying to learn to set boundaries.
In my post on executive dysfunction a few months ago, I believe I mentioned having a cleaning routine. I might’ve also talked about my daily routine that helps me cope on hard days. If I didn’t, I meant to.
I have both a morning and evening routine. Truthfully, I follow the former more frequently than the later. Evenings just don’t always go to plan.
The key thing to me following a routine at all?
Keep it simple.
Complexity doesn’t work for me when I’m stumbling around in the morning without coffee.
I wake up, a key part of any morning routine.
Splash my face with water, brush my teeth (and hair…separate process lol), and stretch.
Make the bed.
And that’s it.
That is literally my early morning routine.
Everything else that comes next is part of my to-do list for the day and may or may not get done.
The older I get, the more I try to create a calm space for myself. Stress isn’t good for anyone, but particularly for autistics. The world generally causes us massive amounts of stress just being the way it is.
Home is my safe zone. And I’ve gone out of my way to try to create an environment that causes me the least amount of stress. My spouse has been really helpful and supportive in my need for calm and quiet.
Here’s what makes up my happy space on particularly stressful days:
Noise-cancelling headphones (a new addition that has done wonders for my stress).
Fleece blankets – we have six in our bedroom.
A scent I enjoy. Two of my absolute favourites are black cherry and strawberry lemonade.
A TV show. It’s usually As Time Goes By or Bake Off. Both are shows that I find incredibly relaxing.
Those are all things that help me cope on rough days.
I tried to write a definition for executive dysfunction from my perspective but the words kept getting all bungled up. So I’m including a video below by one of my favourite autistic YouTubers that does a better job than I could.
A brilliant YouTube video that goes into what executive dysfunction.
For me executive dysfunction is something that makes my life incredibly difficult. It makes meeting deadlines tough. The older I get, the more I’ve had to find ways to work around it/with it.
So, here are a few of my personal life hacks for dealing with days when executive dysfunction is being particularly difficult.
I think about the first 3 tasks I need to accomplish at the start of a day the night before (and also when I wake up. For example, I need to walk the dog, clean the downstairs bathroom, and have breakfast. If nothing else, I find it helps me focus on three things I can get done early.
Cooking. Keep it simple. I pick recipes that don’t have a million steps. If a recipe has too many steps or too many words, I get lost and don’t want to do it.
Accepting that some days I just can’t. It doesn’t make me lazy. It doesn’t mean I’m worthless. I’m just having a rough day. I can try again the next day.
Have a cleaning routine. I used to try to accomplish everything on the weekend. It often failed miserably. Now? I have a list of ‘daily tasks,’ I do one each day. I also have a list of more in-depth cleaning that I do across three months in autumn and again in spring. Even on rough days, I can usually manage one cleaning tasks (or one room.)
Finding the right level of distraction. I need white noise to accomplish stuff, otherwise the silence is too loud and distracting. I usually put on music or a TV show/movie that I’ve seen before.
What about you?
Do you deal with executive dysfunction? What are ways you’ve learned to help yourself?
At the time of writing this post, I’m about eight days into my 100 Days of Writing Challenge. The goal? Write 30 minutes every day for 100 days. So far, so good.
Day one through six felt like a dream. Words flowed easily. Blog posts, emails, newsletters, and several chapters in my current WIP.
And then, day seven.
Day seven was a bastard. My executive dysfunction flared its evil head. And as a result, I found myself staring blankly at my computer for hours on end. I somehow still managed two minutes, barely, but it wasn’t my best work.
Day eight was more of the same. This post actually counted for ten of my thirty minutes. The power of this challenge is I don’t feel overwhelmed by it.
Even on a bad mental health day, I can eke out at least ten minutes or even twenty.
And as an added bonus, eking out those ten-minute sprints help me feel as though I’ve accomplished something, which in turn boosts my spirits on days like today.
So, eight days in, this challenge feels perfect for me.
Less stressful than NaNoWriMo, which usually leaves me feeling like a wrung out dishrag. I feel energized. And I’m writing.
Have you ever done a 100 or 365-day challenge? How did it go for you?