Writing While Living (or Not)

hands on a white keyboard

Neliza DrewMay 2·3 min read (originally published on Medium)

hands on a white keyboard

So, the past few days*, writers have been commenting (on Twitter) about how they can write while raising kids and buying cheese and getting advanced degrees and driving a bus cross country and I feel like an utter failure. I get the reason (old-timey men writers demanding time and space without interference to craft their “genius” and all that). Just… didn’t Virginia Woolf also want a room of her own?

Look, I used to work full time and manage to read and paint and write and I managed to get writing done when I was in grad school and even when I worked full time and went to school full time as an undergrad. No, I didn’t manage to publish anything or hit any bestseller lists. I’m not good enough at writing for all that. But I did it. I put words on pages and into documents.

ADHD likes boundaries and back then I had them. I knew when work ended and I knew when class started and I knew when the next thing was due. It’s easier to write in the “cracks” when those cracks have defined edges.

I don’t have as many boundaries now because I am technically an independent contractor. So, I never know when to stop “hustling” and when it’s “okay” to write. Writing, again, makes no money. If anything, it’s a sink of time, energy, and money. I enjoy it when I can get myself to do it, but even as I’m typing this, my brain is reminding me that I need to open slots for classes next month, that I need to open more, expand my schedule now that the husband is almost back to being able to drive fully on his own again.

And always feeling “not enough” in my work life makes it extremely hard to give myself permission to “play” (write, read, paint, walk around the neighborhood).

Trying to “be enough” has been a lifelong struggle. As a kid, I was borderline gifted. (There was a cutoff and the other kid with the same score had a better family and sadder story, but they didn’t seem to do much beyond get an extra hour or so a week in the computer lab, which at the time was a row of Macintosh IIs in a dark room off the library.) In high school, I was in most of the same AP and “level 1” classes as those former gifted kids. Except I slept too much in class (not eating makes it hard to stay away) and I got bored easily when I was awake so I was often reading or writing when I was supposed to be listening. There’s a good chance I could have done better if I’d had some of the tools now for ADHD and depression.

Then again, who knows who I’d be.

I need to be a person who can set boundaries for myself.

It sounds easy. So simple. Block off some time and do the thing you said you were going to do. People without ADHD or some other internal sabotage must look upon the notion as so self-evident as to not even need mentioning.

I can teach at the times I’ve scheduled because someone is expecting me. I am not expecting myself at the laptop at a specified time — and even if I am, I am easily ignored because my brain does not see me as a person who needs to be listened to or obeyed.

*I started working on this days ago, but I couldn’t convince myself to finish because I decided I needed to exercise more, try to get more classes to teach, and worry obsessively about my lack of achievements/worth in life instead.