I signed myself up for NaNoWriMo (National novel writing month) this year. It’s probably the first time I’ve actually been in a position, mental and physical health-wise, to give it a more than half-hearted try. I’m not trying to write an entirely new novel this time, but I figured it would be a good time to pull together my new outline for Somnolence and do that full reworking of it that I’ve been planning. It gives me a start and end date, plus a little bit of outside support and encouragement. I’m on track so far, which is cool.
I’ve also been experimenting with different ways to make my days more consistent. So far the weirdest but most effective thing has just been eating the exact same breakfast every day. For the past few weeks it’s been cottage cheese with a whole cut up banana and a drizzle of raspberry syrup. It’s surprisingly delicious, filling, and it gives me a decent amount of energy. The other most effective thing has been making sure that the the kitchen is always useable and cleared up for the morning, even if that means I wind up doing dishes right before bed.
This means that I don’t have to think at all when I get up. I just roll out of bed, turn on the kettle for tea, make the bed, make the tea, give the rabbit his morning salad and let him out of his pen, thaw the dog food, cut up my banana, give the rabbit the end piece of the banana so he won’t try to hop onto the table to steal it, then actually put together and eat my breakfast and drink the tea. Oh, and somewhere in there I usually shower and get dressed, too. It’s possible that part of the reason I need consistency so badly is because I have very spoiled animals, but it definitely helps to cut down on general friction in my mornings. It also cuts down completely on those super un-fun days I used to have occasionally where I would totally fail to eat any breakfast because the kitchen was a mess and/or nothing sounded edible to me, which meant I didn’t take my meds, which meant I couldn’t sort out how to fix the breakfast problem, which usually led to an eventual meltdown of sadness and starvation, and nobody wants that.
I think the next step might be to add a short after-breakfast walk for me and the dogs. Frodo seems interested in the concept, too, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t stand for a bunny leash. I’ve been trying and failing recently to keep up with my longer walks, but a quick daily walk before work would probably have more of an effect on my everyday energy levels anyway, and even a short bout of exercise is supposed to help with concentration. We’ll see how that goes.
There’s a theory that every choice we make in a day uses up a portion of our supply of willpower. It gets replenished while we sleep, and drained over the course of the day the more decisions we have to make. That’s part of why habits and routines are so helpful, if you can form them, because ideally they each take one or more choices out of the day by making those actions automatic.
I think that that kind of incremental willpower drain is extra hard on people with ADHD, because every time my brain goes “I wonder how hard it would be to build a miniature beach in an aquarium complete with real tiny fish and crustaceans” I have to use a little bit of energy to stop myself from immediately googling the best sources for Thai micro crabs and corkscrew vallisneria. I have to use some willpower every time I think of a cool thing to draw, which happens multiple times a day. I have to use it to decide that I’ll go out in the garden later because I’m currently writing my blog post. And then I have to decide that again fifteen minutes later when the dogs get excited and bark at a squirrel outside the window. And again when I hear the birds outside on our bird feeder. And again when I remember that I meant to move our tomato seedlings back inside so they won’t get sunburned.
Eventually, I usually get derailed. Maybe it’s because I just run out of willpower juice after ignoring every random suggestion my brain makes while I’m trying to just do one damn thing at a time.
I have no proposed solution at the moment. I’ve just been observing how many times a day I have to decide not to do a random thing and how tired that eventually makes me feel. It also, unfortunately, makes me sort of averse to doing creative stuff on a whim even when I do have the free time for it. I get into the habit of telling myself I’ll do that stuff later, even when I totally could just do it now.