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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Life as an AuDHD Writer: Sometimes I Start an Essay and It Becomes Something Else

I just sat down to write an essay about the inherent risk in writing about neurodiversity right now. To help explain the risk, I had to first explain what it means to be a neurodiversity advocate. That took me down a longer rabbit hole than I expected and I suddenly had almost a full page just explaining what advocacy work is.

This happens a lot with my writing. I sit down wanting to write about one thing, and then I write about something else.

An illustration of a dinosaur reading intently with a deeply interested expression.
Illustration by Jackie Schuld

I think it’s a natural product of my neurodiverse mind. I’m both autistic and ADHD. So my brain loves to hyperfocus on a topic and fully explain it. This is where the ADHD characteristics come in full force and decide that means explaining ALL of the sub topics. I actually think it is a very wonderful thing. It keeps my brain full of ideas and I get to thoroughly explain complex topics for individuals.

However, it can be a very frustrating thing when there isn’t enough time and mental space for it. For example, if I only have an hour to write, I want to get the original essay done that I intended to write. I don’t want to go on tangents. My brain fights me. It wants to go on the tangent, but if I go on the tangent, the original essay will be circling in my brain all day.

Sometimes the problem is mental space. I may have the time to write, but I have something more pressing on my mind. For example, I once sat down on my porch to write an essay, and then my neighbor mentioned that my dog had been howling while I was away. That immediately made my mind think about how to solve that problem. I couldn’t focus on writing. I tried, but my brain kept drifting back to that.

It can be easy to beat myself up in these moments. To berate my brain for how it is and just “force” myself into writing. But all of that just makes it worse. I’ve learned I just need to let my brain do what it does and do everything I can to control the external environment (you can read more in my essay It’s Not All About the Internal Work). I need to protect my external environment and schedule so I have time and mental space to let my brain pour itself out.

In fact, this is my second tangential essay of the day. I still haven’t even written the original essay that I intended. That’s okay though, for today, I still have the time and space to get back to the original.


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