Writing Incentives and the ADHD Brain

I’m coming to realize that writing is a reward/punishment thing for me.

The more rewards I get (in the form of a happy-brain-chemicals spike for finishing a story, solving a plot problem, sharing a passage I’m particularly proud of with friends, etc.), the more motivated I am to write.

The more ‘punishments’ I get (in the form of being stymied on the ending of a story, discovering I have to rewrite a chunk, etc.), the more I lose motivation to write.

This is extra-important for my ADHD brain, which is more shallowly motivated than the average human brain (which is saying a lot, because human brains can be pretty shallow). My brain is extra-ready to associate positive or negative feedback to performing an activity. If an activity gets too heavily associated with “feels bad, man” then there’s pretty much nothing I can do to make myself do it anyway.

Knowing this, I’m getting a bit better about recognizing when I need an easy win. If I have a depressingly big chunk of rewriting to do, then maybe I need to stop and write a little short story to post so that I can give my brain the good juice and remind it that writing is a FUN activity we do in fact want to do.

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