This has nothing to do with my ADDled brain … but it’s still important

“The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”

— Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Continental Congress Delegate Edward Carrington

That famous bolded section of the quote above was repeated recently by the host of a local radio show I recently had the pleasure (and terror) of being interviewed on about the importance of local media. Thankfully, it was not live!

On a chilly gray Saturday, Jeff Milchen and Steve Kirchoff, hosts of “The View From Here” on KGVM brought me and Bob Wall, Operations Manager for the community radio station, into the studio for a lively discussion.

If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, I guess, I do. As a former reporter with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle (among other daily newspapers), a current freelance journalist and a radio DJ on KGLT — a primarily music-oriented local station that intentionally avoids the news — I felt I had a good handle on the subject matter. It helped that I came prepared with quotes and stories from other sources to support the assertions I made.

Here’s a link to the recording.

I’m curious. What are your thoughts about the media and its role in preserving democracy?

Feel free to post your comments. I’d love to know what you think.

Why my challenges are also a blessing

A few months ago, I challenged myself to do something scary. Really scary. I spoke about having ADHD and dyslexia in front of hundreds of people over two nights here in Bozeman.

It was a PechaKucha talk meaning I had six minutes and 20 seconds to tell my story. I created a Powerpoint of 20 slides that played 6 seconds each behind me on stage at The Ellen Theatre. It was a powerful experience hearing people react to my words as I spoke.

It was also affirming having folks — even people I didn’t know — praise the presentation. More importantly, I was surprised and pleased to have several people thank me, themselves having been recently diagnosed or having struggled with these issues for years. Some even sought me out for advice.

Whoa!

If I think back on the days when I first started keeping this blog, I realize how far I’ve come from that anxiety-ridden, depressed woman. Now, I feel strong, confident and capable. And I’m getting things done … not despite, but BECAUSE I have ADHD.

Don’t get that? Watch the video.

An artist’s discovery

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“ — so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

                            From “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.

Like many with ADD, what I lack in focus I make up for in creativity. In other words, ideas are abundant, action is not. It’s the bane of many an ADDled brain.

But recently, I had a revelation about writing.

I’m just beginning to surge into the world of fiction writing which is so new to me and I’m learning that unless one is unnaturally gifted, it’s hard.

Really hard.

But it’s also fun.cheshire cat

The fun part is when your mind wanders into places it wouldn’t ordinarily go. The problem for a non-fiction writer like me is getting to that place. Dreams are perfect venues to discover that space. At least it seems that’s working for me lately.

Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way,” tells her students of creativity to write “morning pages” every day.

EVERY DAY.

Write 3 pages longhand every morning in a flow of consciousness with no concern about what is coming out. No crossing out, no editing … The idea is to shut Mr. Internal Editor down — Cameron calls it one’s “Censor.”

“Let your Censor rattle on. (And it will.),” she writes. “Just keep your hand moving across the page. Write down the Censor’s thoughts if you want to … The morning pages teach logic brain to stand aside and let artist brain play.”

I love that.

So one recent morning, I’d woken up after a really strange and amusing dream. The dream fit the genre of a fiction project I am working on so I felt compelled to write it down.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do that before I had to run off to an appointment.

I usually write my blog posts on my computer. As a journalist, I like to support at least some of what I write here with research, so it’s helpful to have the Internet handy for that purpose. Also, I’m just used to writing non-fiction in this manner.

The problem with writing on the computer, especially if one can type without looking at the computer, is that unrelenting internal editor. I could disregard my typos, but tactile feedback signals me that my dyslexic mind determined to type a “d” instead of the “k” using the wrong middle finger. I know the minute it happens even if I am not looking.

Enter the internal editor who says, “Fix that!” So I do and this backspacing and correcting disturbs my creative flow.

It’s not a big deal when I’m writing non-fiction. But fiction happens on its own terms and stopping the flow often results in a disjointed and unsatisfactory writing experience.

So I learned something about my writing process. I’ve always suspected that writing by hand on paper resulted in better writing, but I never knew quite why.

As I waited in the doctor’s waiting area, I pulled out my, red “decomposition” book (which is an actual thing, by the way).

Decomposition Book

I was either too lazy or in too much of a rush to get the dream down on paper before getting interrupted or both. So I didn’t bother to pull out my glasses and just wrote. By the way, I intentionally chose an unlined notebook with the idea that it might enhance my flow – I think it does.

Three pages later and in just a few minutes – the craziness of my unconscious dream brain was recorded.

Here’s an excerpt.

The scene: I was looking at greeting cards in a college campus bookstore.

“There was this long-haired orange tabby [on the cover of a card] that when you pet it, its eyes changed color. I was petting it and thinking it seemed so real …”

Suffice to say the cat was real and, well, it wasn’t like the Cheshire Cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (if only I were as good as Lewis Carroll).

In any case, I found a freedom and flow that I’d never felt before by writing without the aid of my glasses. It’s not that I couldn’t see, it was just so blurry that Mr. Internal Editor couldn’t tell if I was misspelling something or using the wrong word, so the story just flowed out.

More on flow in a future post. Until then, know that we artists are windows to understanding the world in which we live. Keep yours open.

So many jobs, so little time

So truthfully, my track record with jobs has been, well, somewhat scattered. It’s almost embarrassing. I’ve often wondered why I’ve had so much trouble staying in one job and in one place for very long. I can’t even count the number of places I’ve lived in the last 20 years — four since moving to Montana about six years ago (for example).

In a recent conversation, the reality of my checkered past became too abundantly clear to me.

Sure, I can blame it on having ADHD in a world of supervisors (and you know who you are) who often don’t appreciate a wildly creative mind or know how to usefully focus that energy. But a recent article in ADDitude magazine caught my attention.

In the article, “8 Most ADHD-Friendly Jobs,” adult ADHD experts “suggest good jobs for your unique skill set — creativity, enthusiasm, energy and problem-solving skills,” to name a few. I was curious so I started going through the list.

1) Education

Teacher: My undergraduate degree is in elementary education. I truly love kids as long as they are someone else’s.

So I initially thought teaching would satisfy the joy I felt when I saw a student finally get a concept she’d been struggling with. I loved the creative aspect of teaching, but lacked neither the motivation to deal with the politics of the education system nor the patience to contend with unruly kids.

Nixed that idea.

Day Care Worker: Tried that in Maine for about three months. What was I thinking? Worked in the 2-year-old room. Was sick a lot. Didn’t get paid much. Need I say more?

Practicing high-angle rescue techniques with my former Wilderness Rescue Team members in Maine.

Practicing high-angle rescue techniques with my former Wilderness Rescue Team members in Maine.

2) Medical field

Emergency Medical Responder: Yup, did that too. Before moving to Montana, I was a licensed EMT and certified Wilderness EMT. I volunteered with a local fire department and two different search and rescue teams in Maine. I also taught wilderness medicine to adults (teaching adults was much more my speed).

And I used my enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits to also teach skiing and other basic outdoor skills. But of course, making a full-time living out of that was challenging.

3) The Arts

Where to begin? I was a dancer, singer and actress first. But when people began recognizing me on the streets of Baltimore, I retreated backstage.

I designed and created costumes, sets and exhibits; painted and sculpted scenery; hung and ran lights; constructed sets, costumes, props, furniture and parade floats; set up large and small musical and theatrical productions; and toured with several shows in a variety of roles. In other words, just about anything one could do in the entertainment field, I did. And I did it in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Maine, across Canada and all up and down the east coast. And I won’t brag here, but let’s just say, you’re likely familiar with many of the places I worked and people I worked with.

The entertainment industry is fickle though and after many years in the field, I could no longer bear freelancing and living in New York. So I all but gave up that career upon moving to Maine.

4) Food

Food Service Worker or Chef: Never had either of these jobs, but as I’ve written about in a previous blog entry, the kitchen is one of my go-to Zen places where time disappears and my focus becomes nearly indestructible.

I’ve considered a culinary career, but I enjoy food too much to make it my job. I’ll settle for superhero home cook, thank you very much.

5) Journalism

Journalist: This is where I had the most success.

Journalism presents something new almost every day so ADDer’s like myself rarely get bored. That’s not to say I didn’t occasionally want to jump out of my seat and run around the room during an overly long government meeting or an attorney’s entirely too verbose opening statement. But of course, that would not have sat well with presiding officials.

Like many ADDers, I’m inherently curious, social and love to learn. So the tasks of interviewing people, doing research or experiencing new things were, and still are, my favorite aspects of the job. I was able to use my creative energy when writing or shooting photos or video.

But it was often a challenge to write some of the longer stories.

Sitting still too long at a computer makes me antsy. I don’t always get up to move to refocus, though I’m sure that would help. Instead I often find myself distractedly surfing the web or reading other articles that aren’t pertinent to the task at hand. Notice the present tense — this is still a challenge.

But working for daily newspapers provided me with hard-and-fast deadlines — something I typically adhered to. In fact, I need deadlines in order to be productive.

And reporting was truly the first job I truly felt I was having an impact and that was very gratifying. I still like to consider myself a voice for the voiceless, which is why I suppose I’m keeping this blog …

Copy Editor: Though I have never officially been a copy editor, I really enjoy the tasks involved in playing with words, making copy more clear, concise and grammatically correct and mentoring other writers as my editors mentored me throughout the years. It is something I am seeking to do more of, as a matter of fact.

6) Small Business Owner/Entrepreneur

Like many with this so-called disorder, I always have more ideas than time or focus to do anything with most of them. I have stacks of notebooks filled with random thoughts and project ideas and an undated to-do list that gets longer even though I occasionally get to cross off an item. However, things have improved in that realm for me and I am finding ways to keep track of and act on more of them. Though I don’t have any interest in being a business owner, as freelancer, that’s exactly what I am.

And though I am never happier than when I am free to schedule my own days, it does take a certain amount of dedication, discipline and commitment. I  keep track of my projects, hours, fees, etc. on self-designed spreadsheets and my calendar and task list are critical to keeping me on track.

Working in journalism was a good compromise despite being at the mercy of scheduled meetings, etc. Much of my schedule was set by me.

Now working from home (or wherever I decide to take my laptop), I have even more freedom and mobility and I am much happier because the only person I have to answer to is myself. I still have deadlines, but they aren’t daily and I can schedule my work around bike rides, lunches with friends or errands. I feel incredibly fortunate to make a living this way.

Other jobs on ADDitude’s list were beautician/hairstylist and high-tech/software developer. Out of the eight job categories, I have worked in more than half of them and have at least an affinity to most of the others.

Does it count that I cut SO’s (significant other’s) hair?

Next up: Change and fear …