This is how an ADHD person actually writes.
Updated: May 16, 2021
What an arrogant title. "This is how an ADHD person actually writes". Who the hell do I think I am? I'm speaking for all of you am I?
But there's a reason for it. You may have seen that meme going around a few weeks ago. It's still popping up occasionally "How ADHD people write VS how we have to write". A lot of people seem to like it, and a bunch of people hate it. You know the one...
Yeah, well... I wrote that.
And now I'm writing this blog. Over-egging it a bit perhaps. But, I want to talk about some of the discourse around it and I don't particularly have any desire to do that on Twitter itself.
See ADHD twitter is a bit of a haven for me. Never did like Twitter before, but since my diagnosis, I've found a little community of lovely people I chat with often. One of those chats actually led to me making that meme in the first place.
You puncture that bubble though, you go viral, and all of a sudden other people start having opinions about you. And God forbid they imbue them with any nuance. So I'm going to talk about some of those reactions.
Not the nonsense, ADHD is fake/ableist bollocks that we all see for what it is. But some of the reactions from ADHD people themselves, albeit, those that don't seem to interact with my corner of Twitter often.
1: "That's not ADHD, those are just different writing styles"
So first. Yes. Yes they are. That is, if you look closely, the point.
It's not *just* that though is it.
Because image A is not styled. Not deliberately anyway. Image A is how I write naturally. It took me, I would say, less than a minute to write it. While it took roughly 5 times longer to edit it into image B.
Neither is it "stream of consciousness." Stream of consciousness is a style; it is designed, considered and crafted. Words are chosen carefully to construct the appearance of a thought process. You most often see examples of it in fiction, which, as I'm sure you realise, is never actually authored by the fictional characters themselves.
What I do, and what I am literally doing now, is fully translate my thoughts to speech. It is not my stream of consciousness though. This is exactly what I would be saying if I was speaking. I'm filtering out the random pop up thoughts, the irrelevancies.
I am talking to you.
2: "That's not ADHD, everybody writes like that"
Nope. Sorry. If you really think that you should probably check out the QRTs making the exact opposite point.
But let me tell you how I know its not true. Here's just a few examples from my life.
A friend recently described one of our first text conversations, probably 9 or 10 years ago now. Specifically he talked about two messages that I fired off in quick succession.
- "honestly I think some people just don't know how to be analytical"
- "or however it's spelled"
That staggered him. Because the very idea that someone would send a text communication without checking the spelling, while also not being sure, was unfathomable to him.
When I was 17 I made some new friends. I'm good like that. Anyway, we were 17 like 17 year old are. Doing our texting and that. Because Facebook messenger didn't exist at the time.
One of those friends specifically called me out on how I text. "it's weird. you text like you speak" - he was right, I do. And that was unusual to him. A 17 year old, who talks to all his 17 year old friends in text.
When I was in primary school (under 12), at some point every single writing project I had became a football match report. This wasn't because I particularly wanted to do that every time. It was because I used to get a lot of criticism for how I write. Until... I wrote a match report. Then it was good?
I was told that my writing had improved. But it hadn't, I was doing the same thing I always do. But in a match report, the immediacy of my natural style was a huge asset. Many clauses are often required to describe the action.
And lastly. I literally read what other people write. I see their messages to me, I see them in slack, I get their emails. What I do is different. What my ADHD friends do is different.
3: "ADHD ruins my life, it doesn't make me a better writer"
A surprising amount of these, from some very big accounts. First off, notice the point in my original where I state one is better than the other?
You need to be able to write professionally. And I don't mean that you have to give a shit about the Oxford comma, but concisely conveying information is, like, important.
I prefer the first one, obviously, who doesn't want to just write in the way they are most comfortable - but preference isn't actually a value statement is it?
But here's my real bugbear with this.
"ADHD is a pure negative" statements, are worse than "ADHD is a superpower" statements.
I hate superpower narratives, I think they're ableist and actively hurt people by forcing them to try and live up to unrealistic expectations or indeed, by actively damaging the fight many of us have to receive proper accommodations.
But - at least it's empowering some people.
Pure-negs, as I will now call them, are not, and never are. They do not and can not. I looked at the 100k+ accounts posting those responses, it is not fun for me to be misinterpreted, but then I saw the comments under them.
Every. Single. One. Is a form of self hate. People just beating themselves up for something they are. They weren't attacking the traits, or the associated struggles, or even the ADHD itself - they were berating themselves, demeaning their own value.
I saw at least a dozen comments that my psychiatrist would count as ideation. I literally DMed one person because I was that bloody worried about them.
They didn't respond, and I've checked their account every day since to make sure they've posted.
4. "I have ADHD and that's not ADHD"
Here's the thing. I'm a writer. I'm an editor. I've worked for tiny charities and multi-national publishing companies. I've worked on fanzines and community magazines, I've written news and features, in print and online, about more subjects than I could reasonably remember let alone list. I've trained writers, managed writers, commissioned writers. I've managed social media accounts, PR campaigns, been a professional stand-up comedian and producer, and, for fun, I write with friends and for myself. I'm doing it now.
I can identify traits in writing.
I read a lot of stuff written about ADHD folks and a lot of stuff written by ADHD folks. Blogs, books, reddit, Facebook, tumblr, twitter.
I promise you, I've noticed something real. The whole conversation that inspired me to make that meme was real. And in the reaction to it, I noticed something else - the people identifying with it, those who were or thought they might be ADHD, were from a huge cross-section of society.
It spanned race, nationality, gender, age and language. Language! How rare is that when talking specifically about modes of communication? Does that not, maybe, seem relevant?
But also - I didn't say it was everybody did I? When did not saying 'some' become the same as saying 'all'? When did neurodivergent people take a long hard look at the internet and decide, on balance, that the #notall narrative was the right modus operandi for our movements?
At what point exactly did you work out which parts of us, with our neurotype, through which every experience we have is filtered, is not ADHD? Because I'd really love to see the list.
Are you doing anything but invalidating someone's experience here? Seriously, tell me. 150k people identify with something and your response is what, tell them they're wrong? To tell people who, God forbid, might be motivated to check if they have a disability, that no, they shouldn't?
And you know what? Even if I'm completely off base, and totally wrong, and this is just some broad common experience among all neurotypes...
It's still gatekeeping.
You don't get to decide how others interpret their disability, and you don't get to choose how those without a diagnosis identify with it.
What makes this an ADHD writing style?
Anyway let's try and put a button on this. You see, I can actually tell you exactly which identifiable ADHD traits and behaviours can manifest themselves in our writing styles.
Impulsivity & rushing through tasks - I need to say this now!
Attention to detail - Yeah, probably fine, ill just post it.
Being socially inappropriate - Sorry, why do I have to change how I communicate when you clearly understand what I mean?
And lastly, the one that hits me the most - Feeling Misunderstood. It's common in ADHD and, in fairness, most Neurodivergent people.
It's the sort of thing that, when you think about it, might cause someone to over-explain, like, for instance, writing a massive blog post about something which, really, they're quite aware that they're the only one putting that much thought into it, but when you break it down, actually, makes sense if someone who thinks that way would write sentences that include a lot of clauses.
That last sentence made perfect sense.
Read it again.