Tuesday Take: Channeling ADHD and Getting Shit Done

What I’m listening to: How Long by Charlie Puth

Note to all who are wondering why the blog feed says “Writer Wednesday.” I screwed up. It’s Tuesday. End of story. 🙂

I’ve been known to be a tad spontaneous.

Okay, more than a tad. More like a tad plus a truckload.

In the past, I’ve done nutso shit like:

  • Deciding to send out new brochures, then writing them up and printing them same day (yep, one typo was missed)
  • Deciding to focus on a new area of concentration, then sending out dozens of LOIs and magazine queries the same day
  • Deciding that big prospect was mine for the asking, then asking (without much research behind it)
  • Deciding I needed another blog I didn’t have energy or time to post to (still struggling with this brilliant decision)

In every case, I not only didn’t get the clients, I lost interest quickly.

This is what happens when you try to do too much without putting some serious planning into it.

This is what happens when freelance writers let their ADHD run the show. Click To Tweet

Maybe you’ve been here, too. Maybe you’ve driven down the same side of Crazy-making Street I have.

So how do you stop those barreling trains of Brainstorm and Creative Energy from colliding?

By channeling the energy in more constructive ways, my friend. I know. I’ve had to do it.

Confession time: the first conference I went to post-employee status, I wasn’t prepared at all. I figured I’d show up, cheap business cards in hand, and make a killing.

Despite the potential to make a horrible impression, I did manage to land a few gigs, but they were less than ideal. I was too eager to accept any gig, which meant I ended up with one-off projects, difficult people, and a serious case of wheel spinning. I got one or two good gigs out of it, but the bad far outweighed the good.

It wasn’t a total loss — I did make connections that I still have. I made a few connections that I realize now weren’t going anywhere, but I learned.

I learned to have a plan first.

But Lori! I have a million ideas at once! Every single one of them is golden!

I know. They may well be. But do you have time to fully launch every last one of them? No?

Then don’t. For your own sake, don’t.

I hear you asking: What about all these great ideas? 

I suggest you apply a simple test — a sniff test if you will — to each idea.

  • Is this a timely idea, or is it evergreen?
  • How much effort will this idea take?
  • Do I have the time needed to bring this to fruition? The resources? The skill?
  • How committed to the idea am I? Is the plan strong enough to sustain that commitment?
  • Seriously, am I really going to do this for the long term, or am I more interested in “trying it out” first?


Now that you have your answer for each idea, let’s whittle that list down. Let’s create a shorter list of ideas that you’ll later brainstorm and put some action plan to.

Timely or evergreen? Maybe you need to act on this ASAP. If so, you may want to put this item as a priority. If you’re sitting on an idea such as writing white papers that specifically address a current event, that’s something to move on right away. If it’s more like a topic that’s been around forever, think about if this is something that can wait until you have time to really research it.

Effort. I too want to have a monthly newsletter for each of my blogs. But I truly don’t have the time for it. I don’t have time for the one that occasionally goes out for this blog. I know my limits, so I don’t plan it. What wish-list item do you want to accomplish, but can’t find time for? Put it lower on your priorities list, or your “do it later” list.

Commitment. I have to say that commitment alone isn’t a good measure. I was committed to every idea I eventually bailed on. Commitment needs to be coupled with a solid plan. If you have a great idea you’re committed to, try putting together a plan. Suppose you want to write ebooks on dog grooming. Your plan would include: identifying potential buyers, knowing how to market, deciding on what marketing push you’ll do, choosing social media platforms, and actually carving out the time to write them. Also, don’t forget to investigate how much your efforts will pay off. Is the market big enough? Are you able to charge enough to make it worth your effort?

Long-term reality check. Ask yourself the tough question: Am I going to be this excited about this idea in 9 months when the workload is still intense and the payoff has yet to come? Do I love it enough to make it my primary focus for the next year? Am I loving it because it’s something I really want to be doing, or because I want to be doing something different?

Writers, how have you struck a balance between expanding your business and not going batshit crazy with it?

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  • Mary Schneider January 23, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Oh, the First Conference… were any of us prepared?

    I was just telling Beloved the story of mine yesterday. A day conference, and at the time I was desperate to break into writing for children. Of course, Highlights Magazine was the Golden Ring, so I signed up for a critique with a Higlights editor. The note came that she was overbooked and I’d been bumped- to a Cricket editor. I was devastated, but magnanimously accepted the shift in my fortunes and soldiered on.

    She read my earnest little short story, and liked it. Asked me to add ~600-800 words to fit their format (Highlights stories average 600 words, Cricket Magazine’s run 1,000-1,500,) and invited me to submit.

    I considered, but politely told her I’d probably go ahead and submit to Higlights, because that was my target market. Thanked her for her time and sashayed away. That poor editor… she was probably gobsmacked at my stupidity. lol!

    Luckily I had an excellent online critique group who quickly set me straight. I revised the piece, submitted it to Cricket, and made my very first sale as a professional writer.

    • lwidmer January 23, 2018 at 8:45 am

      Mary, wow! That’s some opportunity! I’m glad your critique group set you straight. I too wanted Highlights SO badly. I ended up in Child Life, and it was probably a better move — the article was given a middle-page spread with lots of appealing photos.

  • Joy Drohan January 23, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Lori, Dude, it’s Tuesday!

    • lwidmer January 23, 2018 at 8:43 am

      Joy, have you any idea how happy I am right now that this wasn’t a “get it right/pay attention to the details” post? LOL Thanks. I saw that in the feed and raced over, hoping no one would notice. 😉

  • Cathy Miller January 23, 2018 at 9:25 am

    My challenge now is taking a different direction in my business, but I see so much of myself in this post, Lori. At a time my mom duties have increased and I want to transition my business, I’ve become the hamster on the spinning wheel. I planned but it wasn’t long before that blew up. I’ve been sloooow to adjust.

    I always say the best thing about plans is you can always change them. I just need to get off the hamster wheel and do it. 🙂

    • lwidmer January 23, 2018 at 9:30 am

      Hear hear, Cathy! No hamster wheels admitted here, either.

      I’m taking the same direction — I’m trying to decrease the work and enjoy more free time for other writing projects. So far, I’m quite happy with making less. 🙂

  • Paula Hendrickson January 23, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Those last two points were exactly what I needed to hear, Lori. I have a couple of ideas I want to focus on this year. Neither is timely, so I’ve been procrastinating. I think part of it has been the nagging voice not in my head, but whispering about 100 yards from my ear, “Are these sustainable ideas?”

    Looks like I have some more planning to do!

    • lwidmer January 23, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      Those are the “gotcha” questions, aren’t they? You may think you’re committed to it, but you look at it again and…well… maybe not so much.

  • Devon Ellington January 23, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    At this point, I’d be happy to have a functioning web site. Web host hell. Seriously, though, I think about how much I really want to spend time on this during the long haul. Also, when I try something and decide I don’t want to do it, I complete contracted projects, take the service off my website, and, as I complete contracted projects, pitch in the direction I want to move.

    • lwidmer January 23, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      Great advice, Devon. I did that with resumes. They were fine for a while, but eventually, the work wore a groove in my brain. 😉