I started this as a comment on a friend’s Facebook post and then it got really long and I thought maybe I should make it a blog post because I haven’t updated my blog in forever. Why? Because I lost interest.
For me “I lost interest” isn’t so much an insult as a law of the universe. While I’m a hard worker when someone else is cracking the whip (or dangling the carrot i.e. paying me), when it comes to my own creative endeavors I tend to go all in on things in bursts and then beat myself up for not being able to achieve sustained consistency. Because another law of the universe is that consistency is the key to success. Do something regularly and it will find an audience. Do something for 10,000 hours and you will become good at it. But what if that’s just not the way you’re wired?
My adhd brain means that my passion burns hot and bright but not enduringly.
It means that I will always be “multi-class” (A useful Dungeons & Dragons term where you put points into multiple specializations instead of growing much faster in a single class). Instead of becoming the best writer, I’ve split my 10,000 hours with art. Instead of becoming the best artist, I’ve split my 10,000 hours with knitting. Instead of becoming the best knitter, I’ve… you get the idea. Hours of practice, split multiple ways. Jack of all trades… master of none.
This doesn’t only apply to learning skills, but also to any actions that advance my dreams: such as marketing or writing books.
One thing I have put over 10,000 hours into though is being me and living with my brain. And me and my brain work in social media which is an industry where giant algorithms assign actual numbers to consistency. It’s important. Or at least… the appearance of it is important.
What do you do if you’re not wired to be consistent? You fake it.
That’s a bit of an oversimplification. What I mean is, you acknowledge it and you work around it.
Also, you fake it.
Instant-gratification brain says “you have content, share it all now!” but don’t do that!
Schedule it instead of immediately sharing it. I produce a surplus when I’m in the zone or caught up in the excitement, and then nothing for months after I’ve burnt myself out.
Acknowledging that future me definitely won’t care anymore is the first step in faking consistency because it means that current me, who does care, can save some of that gratification for her. Instead of hitting “share”, I now often hit “schedule”. It doesn’t mean I don’t go silent sometimes, but it shortens the length of the silences and it means I can prioritise when I share things — for example during a book sale or in my monthly newsletter, rather than having to create something fresh on demand. If I had to create all of the content for my newsletter squarely on the 19th of every single month? I definitely wouldn’t send it consistently.
Secondly, when I’m feeling passionate, I find ways to automate or simplify things for future me who definitely won’t care anymore. Some things can keep going without any input from me if I set them up right like newsletter welcome mails or Amazon ads that just keep delivering.
What I can’t automate, I can often make easier for Future Me. I can create schedules, plans, themes and templates. I can ensure that future commitments don’t require passion and drive, just a few small adjustments or copying and pasting.
This is one I really struggle with so repeat after me: Do not commit to anything big and complicated in the future even if it seems like something fun that I totally want to do now. An example for me would be promising to send out a short story in my newsletter every month, or setting up preorders for every book in a new series before I’ve even written the books. Anything that relies on future me still being passionate is something I need to avoid.
When I commit to something, I try to promise only what I’d be able to do in the absolute worst circumstances, when I’m burnt out, anxious and hungry. It’s a pretty good bet that if I can imagine doing something while hungry, I’ll deliver on it.
Better done than perfect
When I’m in the zone (hyperfocus), I will spend hours and hours trying to make something perfect. This means I produce very little because I’m overly concerned with it being worthy of the excitement I feel about it. It also means I learn very little because I’m working on one thing instead of many things. A key to consistency is finding the balance between quality and quantity. Don’t become so hung up on quality that you can’t move forward. The more that you can produce while the passion burns, the more you have to tide you over until the next bout of inspiration. The more you stress about a single output, the less fun it is, the quicker the passion burns down.
It is important to learn, grow and care about what you make, but there’s a peace that comes with acknowledging that perfection is unattainable and that no one will ever be as critical of what you produce as you are.
Become a renaissance woman
Finally, the most important thing was to embrace the way I’m wired. This validation came with a doctor’s diagnosis and I wish that it hadn’t taken me so long. There are wonderful things about multi-classing. You can become one of those annoying people who’s good at everything. You can do for yourself what others pay for (e.g. I can design my own book covers and save a ton).
Instead of looking at my struggles with consistency as a character flaw, I embrace the fact that I’m always finding something new to learn, some new creative activity to be excited about. Life with my brain is never dull!