Creativity

Non-Conformity and Being Prolific: An Interview with Bryan Hutchinson

bryan_hutchinson_positive_writer_5

While ADDers are well-endowed in the creativity department, many of us find it difficult to bring our multitude of ideas to life.  For this post, I have had the wonderful opportunity to pick the brains of Bryan Hutchinson – one of the most productively creative and inspiring ADDers I know. Let’s get to it – enjoy!

 

Andrea:  Bryan, you have published eight books, including the best-selling “Writer’s Doubt”, created two hugely successful blogs, and authored featured articles for national magazines and newspapers. Most ADDers I know struggle with finishing stuff.  Yet when it comes to productive creativity, you’re kind of a machine. What’s your secret and where can we buy it?

Bryan: Ha! You’re very kind, Andrea. My secret is actually quite simple, I stopped trying to conform to linear ways of doing things.

Most people with ADHD fight with themselves all of their lives, trying to do things in standards ways in which they have been taught. I remember in school, already at a very young age, I did things in non-standard ways and I would always get in trouble for it. Sometimes I needed to walk or fidget in order to think. I always got in trouble for that and the teachers thought I was lazy and I didn’t care, and frankly, so did my parents.

As an adult I can work on my own personal projects in any way I please – and I do. And because I do, I have become extremely prolific. But that happened in my 30’s. The problem with most of us with ADHD is that because of how we’re taught to behave in school, we think there is something wrong with us and most do not ever become comfortable doing things their own ways.

 

Andrea: I’ve noticed that too. In the opening of your book “10 Things I Hate About ADD”, you describe ADD as a gift that comes with some side effects (darn that falling pipe!). This philosophy is what has always drawn me to your writing. What is your reaction to the naysayers – who claim that ADHD is exclusively a disorder whose “gifts” are merely incidental – and how should we punish them?

Bryan: The problem here is actually very simple. Linear thinkers see non-linear thinking as defective thinking. This is normal. It’s like the writing advice that says we should write every day and we should write a specific number of words. That’s absolutely linear thinking. I write when I feel compelled to write, and when I think of writing a specific number of words for a day, well, that makes me want to throw up. I write however many words I’m compelled to write. Period. When I decided to embrace my quirks (which writing, when compelled, is seen as), I felt less guilty and I excelled. No one holds us back more than we do.

 

Andrea: Sadly, you’re right. Often we are our own biggest enemies – whether that relates to our ADHD or to our creativity. This is not necessarily a chicken-or-egg question… but how do your ADHD traits influence your creativity and, conversely, how has creativity influenced your ADHD? (If chickens or eggs are involved, that’s fine.)

Bryan: My ADHD traits are my creativity, so this question doesn’t make sense to me anymore. And frankly, I’m okay with that. As an adult who has become successful at doing things his way, it’s hard to see my ADHD traits as defects anymore. We’re taught we are defective as children because we don’t settle and do things appropriately, but I was pretty unhappy and unproductive trying to conform.

 

Andrea: Speaking of doing things your own way, I’m curious about your writing process. When I’m writing a blog post, one idea leads to another and another and another. Before I’ve written one full post, I usually have at least five other beginnings to other posts. I don’t watch you write because that would be creepy and impossible, but I imagine you probably have “too many” ideas too. How do you keep focused on what you’re working on, but still keep track of all the other thoughts that come into your head?

Bryan: I don’t have a perfect method for this. I’m not sure I even have an answer. I used to try to keep track, but it’s too difficult. This is one of those things where I accept what I remember and try not to regret what I forgot, but a notebook doesn’t hurt (when I remember to use it).

 

Andrea: I love how at ease you seem with your ADHD, and with your own creative process. Whether you’re writing about ADHD or the art of writing, positivity is a theme that runs through your work. What inspires your positivity and how do you maintain it!?

Bryan: Hmmmm… I think this is because I’ve been pushed down so much in my life and the more negative I felt, the more negative consequences I had, whether anyone was pushing me down or I was doing it to myself. At some point, I realized that positivity really does work. I know, there are a lot of naysayers out there who say positive thinking is a waste of time, well, their path takes them in one direction and mine takes me in another. Which one is right or wrong? I don’t know, but I do know I am quite productive being positive.

 

Andrea: I have to agree with that one. Negativity has never made me, or anyone I know, better at anything – apart from complaining. Because you have mastered what it takes to be a Positive Writer, I wonder what one piece of advice you would give to other ADDers who aspire to become writers? (Yes, this question is largely self-serving!)

Bryan: Be a writer. It’s that simple. No one needs my permission or anyone else’s permission to be a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. So be one. Keep writing until you get to “The End.” However, with that said, it doesn’t hurt to be inspired, and in all honesty, the best writing is inspired writing. So, find ways to become inspired. Whatever makes you happy. Take a trip. Explore a new store or mall. Watch a movie you love. Do something out of the ordinary. Meditate. Or, read my new book. 🙂

 

I must say, Bryan Hutchinson has always been a source of inspiration for me – for both his message and his creative output. Whether you are trying to get ahead in your own creative career, or just need a lift when ADHD is getting you down, check out Bryan’s books here. And make sure to check out his latest book:

Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic with Your Words (Sold nearly 10,000 copies in the first 3 days!!!)

My biggest, gushiest heartfelt thanks to Bryan. As prolifically productive of a writing-machine that he is, he still took time out to participate in this interview with me. I have to say guys – we’re lucky to have him as part of our tribe 🙂

Productivity

Scrap the Apps – Do What Works

scrap the apps

Do you remember the days when an application was something you completed to get yourself a job, not something you used to get that job done?

If not, go away. You make me feel old.

Apps of the contemporary definition have become an inherent part of modern living. They make a multitude of tasks, commitments and goals more manageable.

At least, that’s what we think.

Three times recently, I’ve been stood up by people who forgot our appointment because their pc calendar didn’t sync properly with their phones. They didn’t get a reminder to remember me.

Of course, I forgive this oversight easily. I’ve been unreliable in the past too. But it does get me thinking…

If a person relies on their phone to remember important dates and commitments, why wouldn’t they use their phone’s calendar in the first place? Why rely on two different apps to sync with each other when quite possibly one would do just fine?

I get that there are reasons to organize your life with sophisticated apps that integrate with other sophisticated apps. I’m don’t disagree with those reasons. What I am saying is this:

Sometimes apps fail us.

Sometimes they fail us because we don’t know how to use them properly. And sometimes they fail us because, although they sound great in theory, all they really do is over-complicate what could be a really simple thing.

notebooks

ADDers have a tendency to over-complicate things too. Even with old fashioned “apps” called notebooks, we often have several of them, making it arduous to retrieve the info we need.

Relying on multiple apps to simplify life management is like hiring a team of Michelin Star chefs to fry a couple eggs. They could definitely do it. But you know what happens when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.

Complicated apps, just like complicated systems, fuel chaos instead of diminishing it. If you’re getting bogged down and dropping balls, maybe the best approach is to de-clutter your systems. The good old fashioned calendar has survived for thousands of years because of one reason:

It works.

Creativity

Mediocrity and Cultivating Creative Confidence

creative confidence

How many times have you scrapped a project because you were sure it was going to turn out like crap?

Or – frantically scribbled down a clever idea in the middle of the night, only the rip it apart the next day, cursing: “What was I thinking!?”

Or – failed to try your hand at something, because you were sure that you couldn’t do it very well so why bother?

We live in a world that obsesses over excellence. We revere it like an ancient god with powers far beyond our own. And in turn, we reward it with acclaim, adoration, idolatry even.

Why do we seem to think that the only creativity worth admiring is the kind that is exceptional?

And what does that do for the creative confidence of us mere mortals?

Cultivating Creative Confidence

Creativity is not a gift. It’s an attribute we all possess. We don’t manifest art because we are creative. We’re creative, plain and simple. What we produce is an expression of our souls.

Being good at it shouldn’t even be a consideration. Who stops having sex because they aren’t the best lover in the world? Expressing creativity is a human need. We shouldn’t stop making stuff just because it might not be the best-thing-ever.

Being creative takes courage to be uncertain about your talent and make stuff anyway, because that’s what your soul needs you to do.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.

Erich Fromm

Reveling in Mediocrity

Personally, I’m sick of awesomeness being so exclusive.  I want to see more okay or not-too-bad things get the spotlight once in awhile, and “average” people getting attention for their efforts. I love watching amateur theatre or admiring the work of aspiring artists and writers. It brings me joy to see the work that comes from someone else’s joy. It doesn’t have to be amazing for me to appreciate it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love masterpieces too. But few of us are prodigies. Excellence, in fact, is born of repeated effort. Perhaps if we embraced this a little more – if we loved our crap simply because it was our own effort that produced it – we would have the creative confidence to work at it until excellence emerged.

Sadly, I – like other people I know – have passed up many opportunities to express my creativity because I thought my work would not be good enough. I missed out on getting better. But, as I grow older, I am getting more courage to tolerate uncertainty and let my okayness shine. Do you have the guts to embrace mediocrity and keep making, even when it feels like you’re not good enough?

For more on this topic, check out this post: Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Badly.

 

Creativity

Keep Making

keep making

Synopsis: How do you stay positive when you’re not sure that what you are creating is good enough? Simple: keep making. 

Every dream is burdened with a doubt that one day you will be good enough to succeed. You create – with no certainty that what you’re creating is good or will ever get noticed. How do you keep going?

When you feel like you can’t stand the uncertainty of success: Consider nature in all her creative power and prowess.

The sun doesn’t ask why she rises each morning and sets at dusk. She doesn’t lament that, despite her best efforts, the snow remains cold, completely unaffected by the charm of her warm kiss. She doesn’t complain when the clouds dilute her beauty or when the night overshadows her light in a blanket of obscurity.

She concerns herself with only two things:

Rising and setting.

It’s not her business who sees her or whether she’s liked. Her business is to keep shining.

The waves of an ocean or lake don’t cry over their brevity, their crests and troughs fizzling as they reach the shore. They don’t worry that bigger waves are always right behind them, ready to take their place. They don’t fight against the tide that drags them back, to start again.

They concern themselves with only two things:

Rising and falling.

It’s not their business how long they last, or how many times they’ll have to start all over again. Their business is to keep flowing.

And so it is with your dream, no matter how big or small, important or insignificant it may feel at times.

Do not worry if it is good enough.
Do not care if other people like it or notice it all.
Do not fear the darkness that eclipses your efforts or the bigger waves that threaten your progress.
They are momentary.

Concern yourself with only two things:

Rise and set.
Ebb and flow.
Keep making. And resting.
Keep making. And resting.

It’s not your business whether you’re good enough. It is your business to bring your creativity to the world – your art, your writing, your business, your service – whatever it is.

When it’s not good enough – keep making.
When someone else is doing a better job – keep making.
When no one is paying attention and you feel all your work is for nothing – keep making.

Like the sun and the waves,

Your time will come.

Mastery

ADD Mastery: The Time Management Habit

Imagine I delivered a truckload of money to your door step and handed it over to you with only one warning:

This is all the money you’ll ever get in your lifetime. Use it wisely.

Would you? Take care of it and use it wisely? Most of us would try really hard to not waste it.

So why do we squander time like an unending commodity when it’s the only resource we can never get more of?

Poor time management is a hallmark trait of ADHD, for both children and adults. We frequently run late, miss deadlines, or forget to show up at all. Quite simply – time eludes us. We just don’t get it. In previous posts about this challenge, I illustrated why time is not on our side and how to become better friends with it.

It is possible to get so good at managing time, it becomes an automatic habit. In this post, I want to belt out a few strategies that are useful in making time challenges a thing of the past (yep, I totally meant that pun). It’s not a long post. I don’t want to take up too much of your (ahem) time, I just want you to use it better!

Here they are, quick and dirty:

1. Get a Better Grip

Most ADDers have no idea how long something will take in the real world, but we sure do love to make creative guesses based on nothing more than intuition and imagination. Don’t know how long it takes to drive to work or write an email? Here’s a novel idea: time it! Get in the habit of timing routine habits for a couple of days (don’t bother with an hour glass, most phones have a timer on them). This alone will change your understanding of where all your time goes.

2. Double It

If you’re trying to work out how long something will take when you can’t measure it in advance, take your best guess and then double it. If you think something will take 15 minutes, give yourself 30. Most of us have incorrectly calibrated guessers (we’re overly optimistic). Doubling your estimation will get you closer to reality.

3. Set Alarms

Use an external alarm system (again, your phone?) to give you a warning when it’s time to leave. Don’t rely on your internal clock. If you get busy with something, you’ll lose all sense of time. Don’t let that happen. A simple alarm can snap you back into the moment when it’s time to go.

4. Watch for Just-One-More-Thing Syndrome

It can be really tempting to try to fit too much in, and in the process… sabotage your desire to be on time. While getting lots done is super-productive, being late super-isn’t. Resist the urge to do just-one-more-thing before you go.

5. Practice

Being on time is a habit, just like brushing your teeth and getting dressed. At the beginning, you’ll have to work at it. You won’t always be on time, but with repeated efforts, being on time will become more habitual.

Above I presented 5 concise strategies for making time management a habit. The best way to know whether or not they’ll work for you?

Try them.

(By the way, if you want the extended version with more strategies and a deeper explanation, check out everyday ADDvice Magazine ,where my article on ADHD Time Traps is featured in October’s inaugural issue).

Productivity

One Goal Wonder

one goal

Which of your children would you give up if you had to?

Maybe you don’t have kids. Okay then- which of your limbs would you sacrifice in order to save the rest? I mean, if you HAD to.

Can’t make a decision?

Thankfully, most of us don’t have to. But we do have to make important choices about our goals. And sometimes when I ask people to do that, they react as if it’s an offspring or appendage I’m asking them to relinquish.

By the way, that’s not what I’m asking at all. I’m not a prehistoric deity or the psycho out of Saw.

But…

I am asking you to juggle your goals differently. One ball (goal) at a time.

But I have many… why should I choose just one goal?!

 

All too frequently, my coaching clients want to change their agenda every time we meet. They try to relegate whatever we talked about last week in favor of this week’s shinier (more urgent) topic.

I get that. We live in the moment. Whatever is on our mind right now feels like the most important thing. Ever. And sometimes it is, so we refocus our priorities and switch gears.

But other times, our vacillation is really just a symptom. We can’t hold on to our goals and priorities just like we can’t keep track of our thoughts, our keys or the passing of time.

In other words, goals can be distractions.

To pick one goal out of a bunch and focus solely on it feels like neglecting some of our kids in favor of one. Sometimes, though, one kid needs more attention. And then when that kid is okay, you can turn your attention to the rest.

And just so you childless people don’t feel left out, rest assured – the same applies to limbs. Sometimes you have to favor one of them (i.e. an injured one). That doesn’t mean the others aren’t important.

How do you choose one goal?

It really depends on your circumstances. There may not be one right answer. You may have to simply pick one and stick with it, until it doesn’t need your attention any more. You’re not going to say no to your other goals. You are going to say: not now.

Your other goals benefit by proxy from your discernment. Success breeds success. When you feel successful, it will make you more apt to tackle your other goals with vivacity and enthusiasm.

When your space is more organized, you’ll feel more focused when you write. When you’re managing time better, you’ll be able to grow your business. When your finances are in order, you’ll start saving for the round-the-world trip you’ve been dreaming about.

But if you try to tackle them all simultaneously, you’ll get nowhere on any of them.

So maybe that’s the best reason of all to stick to the one goal strategy:

Its better to get somewhere on one thing, then nowhere on everything. 

Check out Ramit Sethi’s interview with Noah Kagan for more on how focusing on one goal can accelerate your productivity.

Mastery

ADD Mastery: Is “Now” Holding You Back?

now

Is “now” holding you hostage?

Much attention is paid to living in the moment. While this is a great mindset, you should also have an awareness that “now” is not permanent.

ADDers are often prisoners to momentary feelings. There’s no acknowledgement that we didn’t feel this way yesterday and won’t feel this way tomorrow. Which is okay when we feel great, but sucks when we don’t. We impulsively act on how we feel, often with unintended consequences and regret.

Spoiler alert: We want to avoid unintended consequences and regret.

Emotional dysregulation – the experience of intense emotional states coupled with an inability to change those states at will – is a common ADHD trait.

Learning to regulate your feelings better makes life a lot easier and starts with a few basic steps.

  1. Recognize what you’re feeling – “Sad”
  2. Label it as a feeling – “I am feeling sad”
  3. Add a but – “but it will pass”
  4. Do something – go for a walk, talk to a friend, remedy the cause of your sadness – or
  5. Don’t – but remember that the feeling with pass anyway

Yes, this is the over-simplified version of emotional mastery. Our feelings are intense enough, taking charge of them shouldn’t be intense too.

Doing one through five won’t solve an emotional break down, but it might take the edge off a bad mood.

Try it.

Creativity

Exercise Your Imagination

imagination

What role does imagination play in your life?

We know that good eating, sleeping and exercise habits promote health. Likewise, stress management and positive thinking foster good mental health. However most of us want more than health. We want happiness too.

Imagination is a key component of happiness. For one, it allows us to recognize what a happier life would actually look like. But more importantly, it gives life a more magical quality to it, rather than just the same old-same old.

Imagination is Magical

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. Albert Einstein

Imagination is the one human attribute that has no limits. Your muscles, attention span, even memory – all have a maximum threshold. Imagination has no parameters. This gift, as far as we know, sets us apart from other beings.

For creative-types who invent, innovate, and make the world a more entertaining place – imagination is a vital function that must be exercised regularly. Without it, creativity wouldn’t exist.

Use It or Lose It

Just as laziness leads to muscle wasting, a life filled with activity and no “mental play” leads to an emaciation of imagination.  Your mind becomes satiated with pre-frontal cortex stuff like planning and organizing, while imagination withers away.

Ideas to Exercise Your Imagination

If you want to give your imagination a workout, here are some exercises to try:

1. Photo-bomber Fun

Examine the background stuff in a few of your photos, like the people who became unknowing photo-bombers in your holiday snaps. Who are they? What must their lives might be like? Why were they there? Write a short story about them.

2. Take a Test

Developed by JP Guilford in 1967, the Alternative Uses Test challenges your creative boundaries. Examine an ordinary household object, like a coffee cup or paperclip, and think of as many possible uses for it as you can. The more absurd or random the better! Try this game with a kid – they will teach you a lot about removing the boundaries that confine imagination.

3. Have a Brain Dump

Set your timer and write for ten minutes – about anything and everything. Let one thought flow into another, even if there is no real association or logic between the two. Play with words – try out new combinations or ridiculous metaphors. The idea is to write fast and frenzied, then see what comes out of it.

4. Play the Free-Association Game

Talk with a friend (or yourself, if you’re so inclined). Shout out one random word, then the next that comes immediately to mind. Don’t think too much about it. Write down each word that comes to mind, and see if you can find a connection between them. Again, this is game is a great one to play with a kid.

5. Thought Experiments

Use your imagination to investigate the nature of something you don’t fully understand or to explore all the potential consequences of a particular theory that may not be provable in real life. Here are some mind-blowing examples to get you started.

6. Nap or Daydream

Give your brain a break from tedium of the day to get its creative juices flowing. Dreaming is the ultimate expression of an unrestricted imagination. Take a cat nap and as you fall asleep, notice the images and sensations that send you off. Or, spend some time relaxing in a daydream about … anything you can possibly imagine! Notice what comes up when you don’t force your mind to think about anything in particular.

These are just a few ideas to help you exercise your imagination. Feel free to share what comes out of these exercises for you, or share a few ideas of your own!