Episode 14: Writing Hacks for ADHD with Monica Hay

Welcome back to Alchemy for Authors!

This is part two of a conversation with Writing Coach and Fantasy Author, Monica Hay.

Like myself, Monica was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. In this episode, she shares her journey to diagnosis, how she has reframed ADHD as an author superpower, and the productivity and focus hacks she uses to get her books written.

Everyone has those moments where getting our butts in the chair and our words on the page is HARD work. And this is where Monica has some simple and really cool tricks that will work for you even if you don’t have ADHD.

And if you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, make sure you do! In Episode 13 Monica shares how authors can benefit from using mindset and the Law of Attraction to bring themselves closer to their writing goals.

To connect with Monica or book a coaching session with her, follow her on Instagram: @monicahayauthor, or visit her website at: https://monicahay.com/ – and make sure you mention you listened to this episode!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Jessica Brody – YouTube Channel

Freedom App, Flora App, Forest App  – Productivity Apps

If you enjoyed this show, please rate, review, and subscribe so you never miss an episode.

You can follow me on Instagram: @jobuerauthor

Join the Alchemy for Authors Facebook Group here.

Download your FREE copy of Manifestation for Authors: Tips & Tricks to Supercharge Your Author Life With The Law Of Attraction here.

Find the full transcript of this episode below.

EPISODE 14: Writing Hacks for ADHD with Monica Hay

Jo: Hello my lovelies. Welcome back to another episode of Alchemy for Authors. Today’s episode is a continuation of last week’s interview with the wonderful Monica Hay – part two, if you will. And if you haven’t listened yet to Episode 13: Manifestation and Mindset for Authors with Monica Hay, then I highly recommend you do so. Monica is a writer of fantasy fiction living in Portland, Oregon. She’s also a writing coach who infuses spirituality into her coaching practice to help her clients create their dream writing lives. Monica also plans to launch Law of Attraction and ADHD Coaching later this year.

So in last week’s episode, Monica shared how authors can benefit from using Mindset and the Law of Attraction to bring themselves closer to their writing goals. In this week’s episode, we shift focus to discussing being a writer with ADHD. So, like myself, Monica was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. She shares her journey to diagnosis, how she’s reframed ADHD as an author superpower, and the productivity and focus hacks she uses to get her books written. Even if you don’t have ADHD, I think you’re going to enjoy this episode. Everyone has those moments where getting our butts in the chair and our words on the page is hard work. And this is where Monica has some simple but really cool tricks to push through, that will work for you, too. So when you’re ready, grab a cuppa, find a comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the show.

All right, I’m going to change direction because I am dying to hear more about your ADHD journey if you’re willing to share that and how that impacts on your writing or manifestation.

Monica: Yeah. So I like to call my ADHD a superpower because I like to… it’s almost like I’m reclaiming it. But I have had issues with my executive function since I was very young. So I was tested for disabilities as a child back in late 90s, early 2000s when women with ADHD wasn’t really a thing back then. It was a lot of young white boys, which there’s nothing wrong with them being diagnosed, I’m glad they were getting the help they needed, but it wasn’t a lot of girls because girls tend to present differently. I wasn’t acting out in class, I wasn’t doing those kinds of things. I was just like struggling academically. I didn’t know how to manage my time. I was very hyperactive at home. Like I didn’t do my homework, I would just go outside and play all night. I wasn’t disciplined. And so I really struggled in high school and College. And finally, funnily enough, TikTok, when I was watching that during the pandemic because hashtag TikTok during the pandemic, I started seeing these talks about ADHD, and I had been diagnosed with depression anxiety several years before and thought like, oh, this is just going to be my life. I’m going to have to be struggling with depression and anxiety all my life, and it did make it hard to manifest because I’d have these down weeks of not being able to get to the high vibe state that I like to be in, which sounds very strange saying it out loud. But for me, it’s more of just like, being level and being able to access good and happy thoughts. So I finally realized, oh, maybe I just have some kind of executive disfunction. I have ADHD.

So it took me some time to find a psychiatrist. I don’t know if any of you listening or living in the US, but it’s a trash fire here when it comes to the healthcare system. So I eventually found a psychiatrist. And that psychiatrist was actually not great at all. She did not listen to a thing I said. So if you’re listening to this and you’ve had a bad psychiatrist, you are not alone. So I did get a new one, and he diagnosed me within the first moment we hung out. He was just like, yeah, you clearly have it. And the thing is, I had gone to a very elite University. I had been at this point where people thought I was so smart and that I was fine because I was masking, I was masking all of my symptoms. And everybody thought, oh, you don’t have ADHD. You went to UC Berkeley in California, like, you have a Masters. How can you have ADHD? Because I barely survived doing those things. So eventually, when I met with him, he put me on –  we’ve tried some different medications, and I ended up on the really good medication. And it’s like night and day. My meds have given me access to a life I never thought I could have, where I can actually focus without struggling and, like, sitting down and beating my head against the computer wondering, why isn’t my brain working today? I have the access to my brain working the way that I’d like it to work.

And it’s funny, with ADHD in writing, I have a lot of accommodations I give myself. So first of all, I put my phone in a safe. I literally stick my phone in my safe and lock it and put a bunch of stuff on top of my safe so that I cannot access my phone.

Jo: Oh, I love that. Oh, my gosh. Okay, this is cool. I’m taking note of these tips because I don’t know if my listeners know, but I’m very new on my own ADHD journey. Having just been diagnosed in January, and very similar to you, I thought I just had incredibly bad anxiety for the majority of my life. And it’s amazing. Now that I’m getting my ADHD sorted, that anxiety is just not there or rarely there.

Monica: It’s true. Yes, my depression and anxiety issues, they still can happen, but they’re not even close to the same level they used to be.

Jo: Yeah, it’s amazing. But I love the idea you put your phone in the safe.

Monica:Okay, so I have two phones. I accommodate myself with two phones, and one phone is a regular phone that works like any other phone. And I put that one in the safe. And then I have my second phone, which is only for things that fill me up. So, for example, I have music on there. I have podcasts, I have audiobooks. I have this basically apps that help me with writing or whatever else I want to be doing. But it does not distract me because there’s no Instagram, there’s no Tik Tok. There’s literally not anything that’s going to distract me. I do have one app that I can scroll, but it’s a Law of Attraction app. And every time I scroll through it, it’s inspiring. So I have two phones. And what I do, I have a very specific routine. I put my second phone in my safe or the regular phone in my safe at night around like 09:00, usually maybe 08:00. And then I can’t access it all night. And then my husband goes to bed much earlier than I do. And so I don’t want to annoy him. It goes in my safe, and the next day I don’t look at it. I leave it in there until like three or four p.m. most days, unless I have errands, I have to go places. And that’s usually a different kind of day. But on writing days or days that I’m just working, I don’t look at my phone until like three or four. I don’t take it out of the safe. I don’t do anything. And I literally have to do that because the dopamine hit that I get when I’m on Instagram or anything like that is so extreme that I literally have to take away the distraction. I have to make it extremely hard to access the distraction. So that’s one of the biggest tips I recommend is making it so that you can access what you need, like audiobooks, whatever else you love to do on your phone, maybe. But having the distractions on a different device.

Jo: That is so fascinating. I’ve never heard of anybody do that, but it totally makes sense.

Monica: Yes, I heard about it from a person who, I don’t think she has ADHD, but she has writing hack videos. Her name is Jessica Brody and she’s like a YA author. And she’s like, oh, I have two phones. She doesn’t look at email or Instagram or anything until after she’s written for the day because she says, well, I don’t know what’s on the Internet that day. I don’t know what bad news I might see. I don’t know what emails I’ve gotten, and I don’t want to put my mental health at risk by looking at those things before I write. That’s a good tip, which is why I don’t look at my phone. I don’t look at my email, I don’t look at my Instagram. I literally have the app Freedom on my computer, and I just turned Freedom on for 30 minutes or so, something like that. So I can’t access those things, and I’m literally just forced to write.

Jo: I love that. It kind of terrifies me because, you know, like, I’m like, oh, this is such a good idea. Can I do it? I don’t know. At this point, I’m a little bit addicted to my phone. That dopamine hit – Instagram Reels is my thing. Not making them, but watching them. I can get lost for hours.

Monica: Same girl, same. I won’t lie. I got withdrawals for the first week. Massive withdrawals. I was like, what do I do with myself? Oh, my God, how do I move forward? I was getting literal addiction withdrawals, and then it sort of just stopped, and I was like, oh, I have all this time that I didn’t realize I had. And so it’s been life changing. I highly recommend it to anybody who is, like, struggling with phones. The reason I have a safe that I use is because it makes it really hard to get it out of my safe. If I put it anywhere that it was easier to get it, it would be like, game over.

Jo: Yeah. And we’ve got to do these things. Can you tell me a little bit about the Freedom app? What’s that? I haven’t seen it.

Monica: Yeah. So Freedom is similar to Forest, so there’s a few different distraction apps, and I do have Forest. Forest is where you press plants and a tree is growing. But if you pick up your phone or look at any other apps, your tree dies.

Jo: I’ve got something similar.

Monica: The only problem with Forest is that if you suddenly want to listen to Spotify, you can’t do that unless you’re on a computer or if you want to listen to something, you can’t access that app. So that’s why I have two phones. Freedom does cost money. I’m not quite sure how much it costs, but it’s where you can specifically block certain apps. So, for example, you can block Instagram, but you won’t block like Pinterest or something like, you can block specific apps on it, and you can also use it on your computer. And so that’s what I do. When I pick up my computer to write, I usually turn on a session for however long you want, and then you can’t access things when you try to access it will be like, you are free to go back to work or something like that.

Jo: My gosh, that’s cool. Yeah. I have something must be very similar to Forest. It’s Flora, so I have that on my phone because I tend to have my phone beside me when I’m writing, but when I’m sitting down to write, I’ll set a timer on this app. So it might be I want to do a half hour sprint just to get into it or an hour or something like that. And then once the app is going, if you stop or if you touch your phone or go on anything else, you’re going to kill a tree. And there’s a little bit of that incentive to have this beautiful garden grow up with the more times that you fulfill these time things without touching your phone. So I found that really useful. Now, what’s your recommendation for getting your butt in the chair to actually write when you’ve got ADHD?

Monica: Yeah, it’s tough, honestly. I usually let myself spend a couple of minutes of my day before I sit down to write, cleaning. I’m one of those ADHD, because I’m more hyperactive, I like to clean and like to have my space really tidy. I’m also just like, in general, a clean freak. I think it’s a genetic thing because my sister’s the same way, but I love a clean space. And I let myself kind of like, clean the house, do the cat litter a little bit, and then I’m like, okay, if I sit down to write, I’m going to give myself this thing as a reward. I have to reward myself, basically. And the way I reward myself is through letting myself organize something that I know I need to organize for a while or like, letting myself have some kind of treat or something like that. Your reward system is very personal. Like, everybody is different. You have to find the rewards that work for you. I try to have really large rewards for, if I finish book, I’ll be like, I’m going to go on a trip or something like that.

Jo: Nice.

Monica: Yeah. But I have to reward myself in order to do it. And I also really recommend breaking things into smaller tasks because I think the problem with ADHD brains or just even being a writer without ADHD, it’s very difficult to see a lot of progress when you’re writing novels because you don’t write the end every day. You’re not writing, like the end all the time unless you’re a very quick writer. And so it’s easy for us to think like, oh, I only wrote like 500 words. That’s still 500 words. That’s a lot like you wrote 500 words. But you have to break into smaller tasks in order to feel like your movement is going forward. So for me, my goal is usually about 1000 words a day, depending on where I am in a project. Sometimes I get more and that’s great, and sometimes it’s hard to get to the 1000. But breaking things into smaller tasks is like, one of the biggest things that’s helped me. I still struggle with it because it’s easy to think like, oh, I can’t wait until I get to the end. But I actually have a hack where I like to write letters to myself of the scenes I’m excited to write. And sometimes that helps me keep going because I’m like oh, I’m so excited to write that scene and go for it, and that can feel very inspiring.

Jo: That is cool. I haven’t heard of anyone doing that, but that’s really cool. I like that.

Monica: Yeah. It’s a way of getting myself the dopamine, I get to do this soon? And that’s it.

Jo: I think you’ve got to find those things that are going to give you dopamine to see it through. For me, one of my writing hacks is to have a playlist made up for my story with music that just puts me in the vibe of the story. And I usually do that on Spotify. And then if I know that I’ve got to do some writing, but I’m just procrastinating can’t get my butt in the chair, then listening to that will quite often get me in the groove and gets me excited. And I can’t always write with it in the background, but sometimes listening to it first will just give me that hit that I need to get excited, too, and do it, too.

Monica: Yeah. Sometimes I scroll through Pinterest and I look at some of my current boards for certain projects, and I get excited looking at those, and I think, oh, I’m excited to write this, or I love this part. And that sometimes can be very inspiring when I’m exhausted in the morning. I’m not a morning person. I like to scroll through Pinterest as a way to scroll through things that are inspiring to me because my Pinterest is always like, Law of Attraction stuff and like character art, and that’s very fun.

Jo: That’s cool. Do you think having ADHD has helped you in any way with your writing?

Monica: I do. My ADHD brain has made it so I can literally empathize with any kind of person in the world. And I think I was listening to one of your episodes where you talk about being very empathetic. I think that’s just how ADHD people are because we struggled so much. That not to say that people without ADHD aren’t empathetic, but I think my empathy comes a lot from the fact that I have struggled a lot academically and in my personal life, and I’m very forgiving of people because of that. Like, I understand, like, the problems people face and how difficult it is to live life and do it well as an adult, any age, really. But hashtag adulting is not fun. I do think my ADHD has honestly helped in a lot of ways because I can write about anyone in a lot of ways. I can really put myself in people’s shoes a lot of times. It’s kind of like when I watch a sappy show, you know, like, I’m always putting myself in the characters shoes, and I think that’s a big strength. Like, the empathy is a big strength. I think another strength is like, I know a lot of authors who are such massive introverts that they can’t imagine having to do the business part, but I have a lot of strengths in that. I have a lot of strengths when it comes, I’m a very versatile person, basically, and I think my ADHD has helped with that. It’s made it so that I can do a lot of different things that some people might think is awful, like the business part of, oh, I post on Instagram or marketing myself. Like, those things might feel cringey to some people, but I don’t mind doing them. I’m very personable. I’m able to shift almost into, like, different roles very easily.

Jo: That’s cool. I like that. And I have to say, I absolutely adore your Instagram account. Well, it’s just so beautifully curated.

Monica: That’s my designer Taylor out there.

Jo: It’s absolutely gorgeous in your color scheme and that, and you put out so many reels in there, and they’re fantastic. I love watching Instagram reels. I am one of those people who is still working on getting the confidence to actually put myself on the camera with that. That’s not something that naturally appeals to me personally, but I love watching other people do it. And. Yeah. So I really, really have enjoyed your Instagram. It’s really fun.

Monica: Yeah. It’s funny. I used to be more active on Instagram, but I do love social media, and there’s so many great things about it. I’ve met so many friends there, but I also have to have really specific boundaries. Because of my ADHD, I don’t let myself scroll for very long, usually. Or if I do let myself scroll for very long, I say, okay, well, that was a couple of hours, but it’s okay. I try to be gentle, but the boundaries have to be in place. Otherwise I can go to the depth and nothing gets done and the day goes by.

Jo: I totally understand.

Monica: Yeah. I do also find that Instagram, it can be weird when the algorithm the algorithm can be very tricky. And so I think it’s easier for people to get discouraged and to not want to post. But when I post, I try to just tell myself, the people who need to see this are going to see this. And I’m glad that they’ll see it, and I’m glad that it’ll hopefully make their day better.

Jo: Yeah. The key, really, to living lives that we love is just to have fun with it. As soon as it starts to be too much of a chore, you’re just taking the energy away. Like, everything’s got to be fun. And you can’t always be about the algorithms and the numbers and all of that.

Monica: So that’s part of it. But it’s got to be fun, right? I mean, we take ourselves so seriously in life, and I think, yes, life is serious, but at the same time, none of us are getting out of here alive. We’re all going to die. Whatever. Just have fun. Like, when you’re writing, who cares? Shit, if your words are crap, but if you think it’s crap. Just have fun. I like to think of myself when I write as the person that was 15, that was having so much fun writing that manuscript. That was basically a Harry Potter fanfic in certain ways. I just had so much fun. And I didn’t have those, like, adulting thoughts of, oh, is this good enough? Is this going to sell? I didn’t think about any of that. I was literally just doing it for the joy. Yes. And when you do that joy, yes, we do. My gosh, all the things I created went up.

Jo: I know. And then we lose that as we get older. And I think we need to kind of go back and embrace that. There doesn’t need to be a reason behind everything that we do. No, we can just do things for the hell of it, just for the fun of it. Paint something beautiful or even not that doesn’t look that beautiful to you just because you love doing it. It is fun.

Monica: Exactly.

Jo: I have just had such a ball chatting with you. I’m just very aware of the time here. So I just want to ask is there anything else that you want to share with the audience or any, I don’t know, favorite piece of advice or anything?

Monica: Oh, man. Favorite piece of advice. I think my favorite thing to think about is for people who struggle to sit down and write. I would say that at the heart of your avoidance of writing and procrastination is your denial of process, your denial of your messy process. And this, like, thinking that, oh, I must think about the finished product. It’s like this toxic finished product thinking that we are always thinking about, because that’s how capitalism works. Right? It’s like you sell the book when it’s finished. Right? And we’re always thinking about that. But instead of thinking about that, just embrace the messy middle. Yes. Embrace the process. Because that’s, like, really where the magic is going to happen. The scene that I’m writing and embracing, just playing with it, embracing the characters, whatever you’re writing, just almost as if it’s just you and the words and the story and not worrying about the rest.

Jo: Yeah. Love it. All right. Okay. So I know that my listeners are going to be wanting to follow you or touch base with you and everything after listening to this. So can you just tell everybody where they can connect with you?

Monica: Yeah. So my Instagram is @monicahayauthor, so M-O-N-I-C-A-H-A-Y author. And then I don’t really have much of a Facebook presence. I admit, my website is just Monicahay.com. My DMs are basically open all the time on Instagram, and you can email me at coaching@monicahay.com as well.

Jo: That’s cool. And you’ll be opening up your coaching again later on this year.

Monica: Yeah. For anybody listening, if you want to reach out to me, I can open for whoever is listening just let me know that you listen to the podcast and then I’ll be probably opening up sometime this summer.

Jo: Yeah, wonderful. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. It has been such a blast chatting with you and I really hope we can do this again sometime.

Monica: Agreed. I love doing this. Thank you so much.

Jo: Takeaways from today’s episode:

  1.  If you’re an author with ADHD, focus on your strengths. Maybe you have a greater sense of empathy that can help you with character development. Or maybe your ability to shift roles easily helps you wear the many hats that being an author and running an author business requires. So focus on the positives.
  2. Leave looking at emails or social media until after you’ve written.
  3. Find ways to limit distractions on your phone or computer. Consider physically locking your phone away during writing time, or use an app like Freedom, Forest or Flora to gamify or focus your productivity.
  4. Reward yourself for writing milestones. Find rewards that work for you and use them as incentives to get your writing done.
  5. Break your writing tasks down into small tasks so that you’re getting those dopamine hits from completion more often.
  6. Get excited to write. Consider writing letters to yourself about the scenes you’re excited to write. Create a Spotify playlist for your work in progress, or Pinterest mood or character boards for your story.
  7. Remember, the key to living lives we love is to have fun, so have fun with your writing.

So as always, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. I’ve had so much fun chatting with Monica and sharing all her insights with you. And if you haven’t already, make sure you go back and you listen to the previous episode, Episode 13, where Monica takes a deep dive into using the Law of Attraction to bring you closer to your writing goals.

Ways to connect with Monica and myself will be in the show notes and I would love to hear if you’re a writer with ADHD and what your go to writing hacks are.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode, I’d be super grateful if you’d leave a review or share my podcast with someone else who might benefit from it. I want every writer, every author to know that their words matter, their writing matters, and their dreams are possible. So I hope to inspire them to take the steps to supercharge their writing lives. By rating, reviewing and sharing this podcast, you helped me make that a reality.

I’m wishing you a wonderful week ahead and happy writing.