Spreadsheets: It Has Come To This

I’ve always felt terrible for people who have A.D.D. How infuriating it must be to feel overwhelmed by the distractions around you, to panic because you cannot focus on anything long enough to finish it.

My problem has always been the opposite: I focus on things SO HARD that I often have no idea what’s happening around me.

For example, this one time in elementary school, I was playing with a friend on the playground. We were inside the cement tube (yes, we had a cement tube on our playground and it was AMAZEBALLS) and I know for a fact that when we migrated from inside the cement tube to on top of the cement tube, the rest of our classmates were around us, talking and laughing and, naturally, shoving each other off the cement tube.

Ten minutes later, my friend and I looked up to realize we were the only ones on the playground. I don’t mean that we were the only ones from our class still on the playground; I mean we were the ONLY WARM BODIES on the playground.

(No, there weren’t any cold bodies, either. If there had been, this would be a very different story, now wouldn’t it?)

EVERYONE had left. And neither of us had noticed because we were so focused on whatever we were doing. Pretending to be beached mermaids or something, I’m sure.

The point is, I can focus on a task like a CHAMP.

So you can imagine how shocked I was a few days ago when I realized I have Writer’s A.D.D.

Y’all, I cannot focus on any one manuscript for longer than about five minutes. Here’s everything I’ve got going on:

1) PULL is in Query Land. Thankfully, this one is currently out of my hands. Yay.

2) BENEATH THE DARKESS (Creepy Faces) is sitting at about 45,000 words. But there is a PROBLEM, Grasshoppers. I’ve hit a wall and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m missing a super important element to my story, namely why the bad guy is doing what he’s doing, and also why this other girl-thing (yes, girl-thing) is doing what she’s doing.

I can’t even think about it because my head gets all tied up in knots. And I’m already a little knotty in the head. (Not to be confused with “naughty,” for obvious reasons.)

3) UNNAMED YA CONTEMPORARY comes in bits and pieces to me. I want to write it, but I feel A) overwhelmed and B) guilty for starting it when Creepy Faces is sitting there, so close to completion.

4) UNNAMED CREEPTASTIC DYSTOPIAN-BUT-NOT THINGY is wafting about, trying to take shape, but I keep poking holes in it with a stick so it will go away.

5) THE CLEARING is sitting on my hard drive and I keep having this conversation with it:

THE CLEARING: Why did you unpublish me? *sniffle*

ME: Oh, Clearing. Come on now. You know it wasn’t working. I didn’t have time to give you the attention you deserved.

THE CLEARING: But…people liked me! And I was your first book!

ME: I know. I KNOW. I just couldn’t handle it on top of everything else, and plus, I wrote you so long ago. You’re not even a good representation of my writing at this point.

THE CLEARING: Well, why don’t you revise me and publish me again?

ME: …………………….

THE CLEARING: [sensing hope] It wouldn’t be hard! Just change the cliche part about the dead parents and switch the whole thing from past tense to present tense. Oh, and fix the writing. And change the entire beginning. And, um, you might want to work on the characters. Like…all of them. BUT! After you did those little things, I would be perfect!

ME: [wide-eyed stare] I quit.

Yes. This is the state of my brain at the moment. Do you see why I haven’t written anything in two weeks?

The only thing I can think to do is make a spreadsheet.

A SPREADSHEET.

And it would have to be a separate spreadsheet for each manuscript, detailing WHAT I will write or edit and WHEN I will do it.

In other words, it will be a schedule and an outline, all in one.

Schedules.

Outlines. 

SPREADSHEETS.

Lord have mercy, I don’t even know myself anymore. *facepalm*

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17 thoughts on “Spreadsheets: It Has Come To This

  1. Laurel Garver says:

    I hear you. I’m also an ultra concentrator, so I know that when I can’t concentrate, it means one of the following 1. I’m overthinking something 2. I’m having a vague fear moment 3. I am dwelling on past failures too much 4. I have conned myself to believe that as long as I don’t genuinely commit to any project, then my flimsy attention isn’t actually lazy or cowardly.

    What has helped me is Anne Lamott’s one inch picture frame idea from Bird by Bird. Open a document you’ve got going and work on one moment in the story. Then the next inch square and the next. Thinking only about these characters in this scene is far more focus-making than thinking about a whole book at once.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      That’s essentially what I’m doing with my spreadsheet. Breaking it down into tiny pieces so I won’t end up running around with my hair on fire. Bird by Bird, eh? I’ll have to read that!

  2. Jodi says:

    I second Laurel. All my efforts to start off by knowing EVERYTHING that will happen and where and when and how has resulted in me writing NOTHING, nowhere, nohow. I say kill the spreadsheet monster before it eats your writing. 😉

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Ha! Well, I’m using it more as a scheduling tool and less as an outlining tool, so hopefully it will kill the CRAZY. We shall see.

  3. Amy says:

    I am just that type of person. At work, it’s not unusual for people to have to practically scream my name before I hear them. (Of course, that could have to do with the whole hard of hearing thing, but I digress.) Also, if I’m reading and I’m super into it, the whole world can fall apart around me and I will only notice when someone — or something — actually touches me.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      Dude, yeah. I’m that way. I can tune out ANYTHING if I’m reading and it will take an atomic bomb to get my attention! Glad to know I’m not the only one out there like that…

  4. Ansley says:

    I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Focus on something until it’s finished? What is that all about? Hold up….actually COMPLETE SOMETHING?! That’s just unheard of.

    Right now, I have a due date looming. The Portfolio. I like to call it The Portfolio-lio-lio-lio-liooooooo so it sounds less scary. But, it’s due next Monday. And I’m sitting here reading your blog. And, I guaran-dog-tee you I’ll be pulling an all-nighter next Sunday night to finish it.

    The really scary part? It works for me. Sure, I’m stressed for a couple weeks before a due date, knowing that it’s about to rear it’s ugly head. Sure, I’ll be sleep deprived for a couple days as I rush to finish it. But it is inevitable….I will have that perfect A to show for it.

    It’s not fair….but it works.

    Much love from this side of town.

    1. Anne Riley says:

      You know, I kinda think my lack of a deadline is part of the problem. I also work well under pressure, but right now, I have no pressure. I had some pressure with PULL, but now that it’s on query submission, I’m deadline free. It’s nice, but at the same time, I’m much less productive.

      We should go out for cupcakes when you turn in the portfolio-lio-liooooo.

  5. Connie Keller says:

    I’m so excited to hear that you’re querying Pull. Yay!

    I can totally focus when I’m writing–the kids have gotten away with all kinds of shenanigans when I’m in my “writing bubble.” Sadly, I don’t focus nearly as easily when I’m editing, which is what I’m supposed to be doing now…

    1. Anne Riley says:

      I’m the opposite–I focus much better when I’m editing than when I’m writing. Drafting is SO HARD for me.

  6. Jessica Love says:

    I’m currently in therapy about my ADD/anxiety. I am having the hardest time focusing and managing everything. I seriously hate it.

    But I LOVE the spreadsheets! That’s a good idea, actually.

  7. Heather McCorkle says:

    I feel for you hon, I’ve had this problem. Here is something I’ve found that works for me: let your character come to you and chat with you about whatever they want to chat about. Yep, really. Just imagine them coming to you, sitting down, and talking to you. You’ll be really surprised what comes out of it. Try it with your antagonist too.

    BTW, we should talk about The Clearing. 😉

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