Therese here. Today’s guest not only has one of the cutest covers I’ve ever seen, she’s practically a neighbor (Rochester, NY): author Allie Larkin. Allie’s debut novel, Stay, releases in paperback today; it’s a book Library Journal called “Gilmore Girls meets Marley & Me…” Here’s the back-of-the-book description:
Savannah “Van” Leone has been in love with Peter Clarke since their first day of college. Six years later, Peter is marrying Van’s best friend, Janie. Loyal to a fault, Van dons her pumpkin-orange, maid-of- honor gown and stands up for the couple, struggling to hide her true feelings even when she couldn’t be more conspicuous. After the wedding, nursing her broken heart with a Rin Tin Tin marathon plus a vodka chaser, Van accidentally orders a German Shepherd puppy over the Internet. When “Joe” turns out to be a hundred-pound beast who only responds to commands in Slovak, Van is at the end of her rope-until she realizes that sometimes life needs to get more complicated before it can get better.
I’m so glad Allie’s with us today to talk about something we’ve never tackled here on WU before: writing with ADD. Enjoy.
On ADD and Writing
As a kid, one of my favorite books was The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye. In it, Amethyst, a youngest princess in a great long line of princesses, is visited by fairies who bestow gifts on her at her christening. She receives gifts like grace, wit, charm and good health. Then, to the horror of everyone, a crabby old fairy gives her the gift of being ordinary. Her hair turns from gold to brown, her nose becomes dotted with freckles and everybody panics. As Amy grows up, the gift everyone saw as a travesty, turns out to be the best one of all. Not having to fit the mold of the perfect princess is the key to her freedom and happiness, and she learns how to embrace being ordinary and love the joy it brings to her life.
That’s the way I feel about having ADD. It’s a gift I’ve grown into.
In high school, having undiagnosed ADD was a miserable thing. I once made my math teacher cry in sheer frustration at my inability to learn quadratic equations. And we won’t even get into my issues with English class. But, I think all of those experiences added up to something. Being so uncomfortable and feeling so out of synch was part of my training as a writer. The time I spent staring out the window in algebra actually counted for something. Because I was unhappy, I told myself stories. I lived in my head. I played in my thoughts. I stared at the kid in front of me and wondered what he ate for dinner. Because being a teenager with undiagnosed ADD sucked, I never outgrew my imagination. I never let it atrophy. I needed it too badly.
The term Attention Deficit Disorder is something of a misnomer. I don’t have a deficit of attention. I simply have an unbelievably hard time trying to pay attention to things that don’t interest me. When something, like the novel I’m writing, grabs my attention, I dive in completely. On a good writing day, I type until my fingers hurt. I forget to eat dinner. I live in the heads of my characters and see it all play out like a movie in my brain. In the world of ADD terms, this is called superfocusing or hyperfocusing. When I write, ADD feels like my superpower.
Over the years, I’ve also learned how to use my ability to zone out to my advantage. As a kid, in math class, you’re supposed to be paying attention to math class. When you don’t, it’s a problem. As an adult, how much thought do you really need to put into doing the dishes, vacuuming, or folding laundry? How much thought does it take to run on the treadmill or lift weights? When I do those things, I’m working out stories in my head. I’m playing with dialogue, and thinking about characters. Then when I sit down to write again, the story seems to write itself, because my brain has already put the work in.
Yes, there are times when I wish I were more organized, more linear, less amorphous in my thoughts, the same way, I’m sure that Princess Amethyst, were she real, would wish, in fleeting moments, for beautiful golden hair and a nose that wasn’t dotted with freckles. But if I had the choice, I wouldn’t trade the moments I get to spend happily lost in a manuscript for all the quadratic equations in the world.
Thanks for a unique and inspiring post, Allie!
Readers, have you turned any potential negatives into positives affecting your writing life?