The Writing Process

Do you enjoy writing?

If yes: great!

If no, don’t give up hope!

Writing can be challenging for individuals with AD/HD or executive functioning problems because it demands simultaneous attention to a variety of tasks and skills:

– access to one’s ideas,
– putting ideas into words,
– organizing one’s thoughts in a sequence that the reader can follow,
– vocabulary retrieval,
– spelling skills,
– grammar and punctuation rules,
– fine motor control for writing or typing….

YIKES! No wonder it can seem tough.

Where do you notice you get caught?

Here are some tips to make the process smoother. You can experiment to see which might work for you.

1) Understand the assignment thoroughly. Talk with your teacher or professor.

  • What exactly is being asked?
  • What type of writing structure(s) might be useful to use?

2) Give yourself plenty of time.

  • Plan backwards form the due date to start a project significantly before it is due.
  • Plan to devote an adequate amount of time per day to it.
  • Plan to leave time at the end for editing, including review of those niggly spelling, grammar & punctuation beasties… (It is OK to set these details aside until the end if you can work that way.)

Here’s a guide to project planning that might be helpful:

3) Adopt some form of “prewriting” exercises to help get your ideas from head to page.

  • This might be “freewriting” where you set yourself down for 20-30 minutes and just jot down everything you know or want to know about the topic – get those ideas flowing.
  • Or this might be concept “mapping” if you are more visual and like to diagram your ideas.
  • Some people find that talking out their topic with a friend or family member is a helpful place to begin. You can ask that person to take notes for you, or you can tape record the discussion. Don’t critique your pre-writing, just use it to get out as many ideas as you can.

Here’s an overview of prewriting that includes some more suggestions as well as questions and examples: .

4) Become familiar with standard “formats” for writing assignments. These include an essay, a book report or review, a report, a response paper, a research paper, and others. If you know the structure your product needs to fit into, it can be easier to organize your ideas effectively.

A helpful print resource on various formats is Frode Jensen’s Format Writing.

Online resources include: (see the Writing section) and (Scroll down to the section titled Types of Writing).

5) Be ready to work when it’s time.

Set your self specific tasks to do during each block of time you have set aside for your writing project. For example, you might plan to pre-write at the first session, clarify a thesis and introduction at the second, and write one to two paragraphs at each subsequent session. This way, less time is spent deciding what to do each time you sit down.

Of course, this assumes you are not cramming the project into one evening!

Shorter sessions and frequent breaks might help you keep your brain from getting on overload.

6) Each time you sit down to write, remind yourself of your time-frame and specific goal. If you are having trouble getting going, start writing anything at all (like your top ten favorite flavors of ice cream – mmmmm) just to get the juices flowing. You can find some other suggestions here:

7) Remember to leave time to check for grammar, spelling and punctuation at the end.

Reading sentence by sentence from the bottom to the top of the paper can help with catching these details.

It’s OK to ask a friend or family member to look the paper over for errors too, just be sure to tell them what you’d like them to be looking for. (It can help if you make a list of your own ten most common mistakes or difficulties.) Mooney & Cole talk about this in their book Learning Outside the Lines.

Look at this resource for more specifics on editing and proofreading:

8) If you have a writing center in your school, don’t hesitate to use that valuable resource. Plan ahead to make an appointment for when it will be most useful to you in your writing process.

Take one step at a time to improve your writing process, and you may see your writing products improving as well!

If you need additional help organizing your writing process, contact me. Maybe some coaching around your writing would be useful.

Liz Ahmann, AD/HD and Life Coaching,

Posted in Blog

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