The Medieval Church Sorta did Quantum Physics

It’s the strangest feeling to be reading about the Medieval Catholic Church trying to stamp out heresy and accidentally running smack into quantum physics.

Trust me. It’s a mindfuck.

God's Philosopher's by James Hannam
God’s Philosopher’s by James Hannam

Let me give you the Cliff Notes background. All of this is taken from my current bedtime nonfiction reading, “God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science” by James Hannam. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound exciting to you, but ask my husband. I may or may not have bounced up and down with giddy joy when I found the book on sale at Brookline Booksmith. MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE.

Anyway. You can blame the whole thing on Aristotle, which is handy, because I remember suffering through Aristotle my freshman year of college, and I am eager to blame Aristotle for lots of things – headaches, tears, late nights, fruitless hours in the library, begging my senior friends in the class to explain it to me and hear that they suffered as well from an inability to understand….

I digress.

The Church had just dipped its toe into progress, saying that it was okay to study ALL of Aristotle’s work, including his work on natural philosophy, though it was paramount to cherrypick only the parts of Aristotle that fit Church doctrine and study those.

Enter Siger of Brabant (they had such cool names back then). He was at the University of Paris with Thomas Aquinas during this time, and he was an Averroist, which set Aquinas’ and the Church’s back up. What’s an Averroist?

Late 13th century French manuscript of Averroes' commentary on Aristotle's De Anima. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Late 13th century French manuscript of Averroes’ commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima. The Church’s version of a “Honey Do” list. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Averroists followed Averroes, the Arab scholar and philosopher who had translated Aristotle (Thanks, Averroes, for being part of the Arab scholarship that saved most of ancient Greek philosophy for us by actually keeping it instead of burning or losing it!).

Averroes took Aristotle a few logical steps further and said that the universe was totally deterministic (i.e. there’s no such thing as free will). He also agreed with Aristotle that the universe and the world had to be eternal, and that there was no life after death, that humans had no individual souls. Even more radical, Averroes backed Aristotle’s idea that the laws of nature even constrain God’s abilities.

Whoa. Right? Just whoa. (Oh, and sorry, Aristotle, about you being wrong about the universe and Earth being eternal. Sucks to be you. Yes, I still resent you for my freshman year).

The Church’s Condemnations of 1277 Weren’t That Bad

Back to Siger of Brabant. He was a total Averroes groupie, which didn’t sit very well with the Church, but they tolerated it as long as it was just a theoretical exercise and he *cough cough* came to the correct conclusions about faith, God, and nature.

Church Aquinas Averroes
Giovanni di Paolo’s St. Thomas Aquinas Confounding Averroës. They never actually met. Just sayin’. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I’m not going to get into the whole Siger vs. Aquinas thing because they were both right and both wrong about certain things (Schrodinger’s cat ain’t got nothing on the intellectual coruscations these guys did). Basically, the whole thing led to the Church sighing like a parent in the front seat of a long car trip and breaking them up, setting the rules with the Condemnations of 1277.

Like with all ad hoc parenting rules, the Condemnations of 1277 were a little haphazard. It was the Medieval Church’s attempt to set the rules for the intellectual sandbox and keep natural philosophers and theologians from stepping on each other’s toes (to mix metaphors).

Oh yeah, did I mention that the Church had no problem with “natural philosophy” (i.e. Science!)? Yeah, they were cool with it so long as it didn’t try and throw over some basic tenets of faith (another blog post for another time and a lot more coffee).

Back to the Condemnations of 1277. There were 219 of them, and they all dealt in double negatives. There’s not enough coffee in the world to make it through all 219 of them without a headache. They set out what people should not not believe. 219 times. Yeah, baby.

So, this is where we bump into quantum physics with some pretty progressive biology thrown in for good measure.

The main point of the Condemnations was to insist that God could not be limited by natural laws. This meant  that *clears throat and looks ecclesiastically severe at audience* it was heretical to say that:

  • God could not create multiple universes
  • God could not move the universe in a straight line (because a vacuum would result) 
  • God could not make more than three dimensions exist at the same time
  • “That the world is eternal as to all the species contained in it; and that time is eternal, as are motion, matter, agent, and recipient; and because the world is from the infinite power of God, it is impossible that there be novelty in an effect without novelty in the cause.” (Grant, Edward. (1962) “Late Medieval Thought, Copernicus, and the Scientific Revolution”, Journal of the History of Ideas, XXIII, n. 8)

What’s mind-blowing to me is that the Medieval Church, theologians, and natural philosophers of the day had actually conceptualized these ideas…and then dropped them. Understandably, it would take another 800 years (give or take) before mathematics and science actually got advanced enough to take the ideas to the next level. Still. Pretty interesting, non?

Don’t answer that.

We’re Alone…for now

This is actually something I know about!!! *raises hand like overexcited child in class* Or, maybe, the Fermi Paradox has just been preying on my mind lately.
For background, read this article.

So, according to the Fermi Paradox, we should have made contact with aliens by now, based on complicated math (don’t ask) of the number of stars, planets, etc.

However, we haven’t. Unless you believe the guy with the crazy hair on Ancient Aliens (which I watch purely for the comedic value).
Add in the Mediocrity Principle from Copernicus (which basically says: “there’s nothing unusual or special about Earth, humanity, and our place in the cosmos, and that if anything we’re actually quite banal in large scheme of things”), and things get even murkier.
This article discusses some of the reasons and possibilities as to why we haven’t made contact yet. This paragraph below – taken from the article – is very clearly written and enlightening.
“The researchers also took the age of the Milky Way Galaxy into consideration, and calculated that humanity is somewhere in the median 90 percent of the population of galactic species as far as broadcasting history is concerned. This means humanity is not among the first nor last five percent of civilizations to develop radio transmitting technology. Quite pessimistically, they figure that there have been fewer than 210 intelligent communicating civilizations in galactic history, implying that we are among the first to develop radio broadcasting technology. The researchers also figure that the average civilization has been broadcasting for about 80 years, and that the upper limit for radio broadcasting is about 1,600 years.”
So, given all that, it seems like humanity is among the “beta testers” of alien communication.

Guardians of the Galaxy…or at least its history

But wait, there’s more! Another article I read in Astronomy magazine points out that there is an even more interesting and thought-provoking side to this whole debate.
If we are among some of the first civilizations to catalog the heavens, then our astronomical data will be critical to the future – not just ours, but to any alien civilizations that come later.
Because the universe is expanding. Because what we see for stars and hear for blips have come from millions of years ago (that whole time/distance problem). Because the radiation that we can now detect as among the very first moments of the Big Bang is dissipating over time, like smoke.
Basically, the astronomical data available in 1,000 years will be very different – and not nearly as old – as what we have now. The echoes of the Big Bang will have faded – meaning other civilizations just coming into existence may never know how the universe started without our knowledge.
This is why science matters. This is why astronomy, space exploration, and funding for NASA still matters.
We may be alone – for now – but that just means our chronicle of the universe is more important than ever. It makes us real-life “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

College Reunion Part 1: In which I lay my ghost.

Me at Vassar College Reunion 2016

I didn’t really go to my college reunion at Vassar to see people. Well, I did – my ‘lifers’ and to keep a date on Sunset Hill. But, this reunion was more of a solitary pilgrimage.

I wanted to find my ghost. I needed to see my 21 year-old self and walk again in her steps. I had to confront her bad decisions and understand her good ones. I had to accept. I had to forgive.

Half a bottle of wine into a sunny afternoon on Sunset Hill, my friend and I reached the point of maudlin honesty, which was frankly pretty much a full regression to the over-sensitive college years than anything else could have been.

But, in vino veritas.

We asked each other what we would say to ourselves, had we a chance to intervene for one magical moment and change the course of our lives. For better? That question was left unanswered.

I didn’t even have to think what I would say. I have known for a very long time now. I would say to 21-year-old Caitlinn:

Trust yourself. Trust yourself more than anything or anyone. Trust yourself to survive your mistakes and to own your intelligence and instinct.

Yes, I admit the circular logic of well, would I have had the same life experiences that would lead me to this piece of wisdom had I been able to tell myself that? The answer is no, I wouldn’t have. I probably would have other advice to give myself.

But, the point is not so much to change the past as to take a moment recognize the true value of the time that has passed, and the strange, bittersweet gifts it bestows on us.

There are other things I would tell myself to do: make more friends, spend more time talking and listening, make more mistakes, break more rules, and for goodness’ sakes, stop RUSHING everywhere with such purpose.

I realized that I never just strolled around campus. I walked on missions, errands, timetables. I had places to be and things to do. I never stopped to just look at trees or study shadows. Perhaps that is another gift of time, though. I walk on missions, errands, and timetables on the streets of my life now, but when I come to Vassar, I have a chance to wander. And think.

I saw myself as the shy, geeky girl who lived half in her head, who dreamed impossible things, and whose big dares were in actuality just tiny little steps towards a new life.

My friend on Sunset Hill mentioned that what she found at Vassar was peace. That struck me because I didn’t find peace at all. I knew peace already from my childhood. At Vassar, I found freedom, with all its possibilities and terrors.

Freedom is a drug that comes in terrifying dosages, and I spent four years titrating it into my system. I could have done more. I could have flown higher, faster. I could have failed bigger…and better. But freedom requires courage, and courage requires experience, and experience requires life…and life requires time.

I realized that I could not have done more than I did. I was simply not yet the Cait I am today. I changed and grew as hard and as fast as I could, and there was no more I could ask of myself.

Therefore, I forgave my ghost’s shortcomings and fears, accepted the past for what it was, and thanked that timid shade for trying its best.

When I drove away from campus, I left my ghost at peace on a sunny hill, looking at the trees and the sky for the first time.


Beauty and the Beast and the Power of Love

The first teaser trailer has arrived for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live action movie coming out March 17, 2017.

I will be in line, shanking people to get the first ticket to opening night.

You think I am joking?

Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale of all time. If I had to pick one fairytale to take to a desert island, that would be it. I have collected editions of Beauty and the Beast all my life (again, another blog post). There are so many reasons that Beauty and the Beast is the BEST fairytale and one of the most powerful stories ever told.

It’s also one of the oldest stories ever told, but I won’t go into the history of it here. That’s another post for another day. However, this story has roots that reach back to the dawn of mythology across every culture.

The Power of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
Europa’s fairy book (1916) New York ; London : G. P. Putnam’s sons (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Why is it that we are so drawn to this story? Is it because we are fascinated by mystery and magic? Is it that we can all understand having to live with the sometimes beastly consequences of our actions? Is it that we all long to have the courage to look beyond what is on the surface to see the beauty underneath? Is it that we know that in the end, while Beauty’s Beast turns into a prince, we instinctively know that they are a couple who will always share a dark history, no matter what the happily every after is?

Or…is it because we all long to believe in the transformative power of love….not to change someone, but to change the way we see them and want to be seen.

That, I think, is the true lesson of the most beautiful love story ever told.

Oh, and while we wait for more glorious footage, here’s a way to get your fix on Disney’s site.

What You Should Know I Learned from #BEA16

I’m back from Book Expo America 2016 in Chicago, and there are some very exciting and some very meh things coming your way from the world of publishing in 2016 and 2017.

image9The most important thing is that I got to finally meet all The Fabulous Fictionistas in person (and the time space continuum didn’t rip open, but that’s probably because we didn’t try hard enough).

The sheer amount of brain power and shenanigans we all got up to together is astounding. And it’s only going to get worse. Better! I mean better.

This was my second year at BEA, and I was much better prepared. I was ready with my to-do list, my outfits (fashion forward always, even when carrying 20 lbs of books and wearing heels), and business goals. I got everything I wanted done and more. So much more. Both for myself and the TFF girls, there are some very, very good things happening.

As for the show itself, well, it felt smaller than last year, but that could be because of the change to Chicago instead of New York. On the upside, that meant that the lunch lines and dining areas were not impossibly crowded. On the downside, somehow, the line for the ladies room was not any shorter. ‘Splain that.

Most of what I looked at were romance, some YA, mystery, and nonfiction. The trend of good, literary, historical mysteries in the tradition of “The Poe Shadow” continues, and I picked up a few good ARCs on those. Paris is cautiously popping up more as a locale for these stories, as opposed to London, and also, the Gilded Age of New York offers a lot of scope for mayhem. I also picked up a couple of translated thrillers from around the world (Poland, China, Russia), and I’m super excited for those.

YA continues its march to dark, magical tales with a dash of angsty romance, and there was some beautiful cover art to be seen. Also very interesting were the Middle Grade books – some of which I picked up by mistake thinking their covers were YA. It seems like there was a big push this year for quality Middle Grade stories and artwork.

Romance was…romance. A lot of soft-focus covers, sentimental beach scenes, and impossibly adorable couples. Surprisingly, there was very little chick lit to be seen. A few of the big publishers did a couple of signings, but that was really it. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the beefcake historical Highlander/Duke/Rogue covers.

Eleanor Herman with Genevieve Raas, Sami-Jo Cairns, Daphne Lamb, and ME!

The Harlequin booth was always busy, but it had a pretty even split between YA and regular adult authors, and there are some really quality pieces coming out of Harlequin as they expand their purview. Watch for Eleanor Herman’s “Empire of Dust” – the sequel to “Legacy of Kings” – coming out in June. I’m almost done with the ARC for “Empire of Dust,” and it’s absolutely riveting! The Fabulous Fictionistas caught up with Eleanor before one of her signings. Her costumes for events are brilliant marketing, and it’s such a pleasure to talk with someone as smart and sassy as her!

Things that were kind of “meh” for me at BEA: I wish there were more non-fiction history and science books there, especially as ARCs. I’m a voracious reader of non-fiction, and it would have been nice to see some of the major publishers put out some love for their upcoming non-fiction that wasn’t memoir/self-help/cooking/humor. Also, I wish they didn’t have some of the sessions out there on the floor. I would have liked to attend, but because of my hearing issues, it would be almost impossible for me to drown out the floor noise to hear the speakers. It’s just a very distracting environment.

On the whole, though, no complaints! I got my book haul, and you had better be ready for a bunch of book reviews coming your way.


On a non-publishing note, I got to spend my birthday with my fellow Fictionistas and co-celebrate with Daphne Lamb (oh yeah, May 13 babies rock!). Hanging out with all of them in our suites was like college, only better. So much laughter, so many ideas, and so many jokes…including:

The number of times Cait told Kim to (lovingly) f*ck off: 18

The number of times Kim told Cait to (lovingly) f*ck off: 4

Dark Secrets are dark for a reason.

Group readings are the best.

LitQuest 2016

The TFF Swag-off


And best of all…the velour orgy love pit randomly in the hall of the hotel.

Scabies not included.
Scabies not included.

Daphne Lamb Guest Post: Rules for Dating in the Apocalypse

50SG Promo Graphic 1So the end of the world happened and you and a few others are left alone to sort things out. Naturally you’ve got to keep things up and running and that means repopulating the planet, but you can’t rush into that. Just because society doesn’t exist doesn’t mean there aren’t some rules to romance – and yes, there are still opportunities for that. So here are a few rules.

  1. Don’t Settle:  It’s a tempting hole to fall into. Lets say you’re a single lady stuck in a bunker with three other people and two of those are married and the third is a guy who is excited that his hobby of collecting women’s hair to make into sweaters is still a reality. It would certainly be the easy choice to make him the father of your children and the start of a new civilization, but hold on. Are you sure this is the man you want to wake up next to for the rest of your life? Building a new world is hard and he might not be the best partner for the job. If your gut says no, keep is casual and wait to see what’s around the corner in the next bunker.
  1. No More Waiting Game – if you like them, let them know:  You know how you’re trading whatever you have in your satchel, like a half used cherry flavored Chapstick for some squirrel meat from a cute guy? You both had a moment where there were sparks and some chemistry. You genuinely laughed at his joke about gluten free rodents. The question is, since you both said your goodbyes, how will you two get together? Don’t wait for him to make the first move, let him know you’re interested. He mentioned that he used to like to ski, perhaps mention that you two could go check out that rubble of buildings that people have been sliding down.
  1. Honesty is the best policy:  If you’re not into someone, simply let them know and let them know as soon as possible. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings now, the longer you put it off, the worse things will be. Sure, he’s nice and prone to tears but its going to get really awkward if its ten years in the future and you’re now responsible for your three zombie children and his mother while he’s still crying about where his life went wrong. Cut it off now.
  1. Don’t Go All the Way:  Look, I get it. Your life is over, but you’re still breathing. Nothing is certain and you have no idea if you’ll be alive tomorrow. And here comes Prince or Princess Charming and they’re in the same survival mode as you. You bonded over how you used to have things and now you don’t. Don’t be fooled. Go for long term intimacy and partnership and not the survivalist Viking kind. You’ll thank me later when you’re not pregnant, you don’t have a disease, your food supply is intact and you have one less person in this broken world to hate.
  1. Your Standards Shift Based on How Attracted You Are to Someone:  As teenagers, we always fantasize about the titans of industry we’re destined to marry. As we get older and our feet get set closer and closer to the ground, we adjust those fantasies until they become “I hope I marry someone who owns a car.” The truth of the matter is that we tend to throw out any rules or red flags we have if the person in front of us is hot. Its easy to remember our dating priorities when the person you’re siting in front of has lost an eye due to a fight with someone over a package of Twinkies, but if he looks like Bradley Cooper, you’re probably willing to overlook the fact he took out someone’s eye for a package of Twinkies. Keep yourself strong and fight to find who he really is inside.
  1. Dating Success Often Comes Down to Dumb Luck:  It’s a sad fact, but its true. You can’t plan who you’re going to be with and who you’re going to be in a relationship, it will happen when you’re not looking for it. Mr. Right may be around the corner, but timing is everything. If you force a meeting a day early, it’ll throw everything off. So do yourself a favor. Keep your optimism for a better tomorrow alive, band together with your other survivors and push through whatever plague or robot uprising is going on. Staying alive is your priority and The One will come when you need it the most.

Want to learn more about love and dating at the end of the world? Get The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse and 50 Shades of Greg today!

Guest Post by Daphne Lamb: How to Stay Calm During the Apocalypse

50SOG_cv_HRIt sort of seems like there’s a new threat to bring about the End Times everyday. SARS? Not a threat if you avoid breathing outside air. Ecoli? The Nineties are back in vogue. Ebola? Sooo 2015. Now we’ve got the Zika virus, which may have come from Brazil, but with a few pregnant women in the Midwest getting it, maybe the portal to the End may have come at last.

Or maybe not. If we’ve survived the Black Plague, the Potato Famine and affluenza, then maybe we’ll be okay in the long run. But next time you want to gear up for the next disaster, here’s some handy rules for bringing the mind over matter.

  1. Breathe Deeply:  Panic starts when we throw reason out the window no matter what the circumstance. When everyone is sick around you, you take a step back, check your vitals and take care of yourself. There is no need to burn anything with fire until absolutely necessary, which is when everyone starts getting well again. If you can take five minutes to read a internet story about the virus, you can take five minutes to get some perspective on where you are and how you’re feeling.
  1. Offer Yourself and Others Reassurance:  You know that lady in the office who you avoid talking to because if you get trapped you’re going to end up hearing about her ovarian polyps or the complications from her lap band surgery? We avoid her for many reasons, particularly because there are things you don’t want to think about while you’re eating your salmon and quinoa but mostly because when faced with the problems of the world, you want some hope to go on the side of that quinoa. Pessimism and negativity spread faster than any virus.
  1. Be Prepared in the Future:  What are you doing now to prepare yourself for a future with problems? I’m not talking about starting that underground bunker or starting that YouTube doomsday channel. I’m talking about having basic preparation around you. What kind of first aid kit do you have? Ever hear of a book called Where There is No Doctor? Written by David Werner, it’s a fascinating source of information of what to do when we don’t have the luxury of a doctor near by. There’s a chance we’ll never need actual emergency supplies, but in the event we do, look for things you can keep on hand.
  1. Keep yourself healthy on a regular basis:  Know how whenever someone gets sick around the office, its just a matter of time before everyone else is? That’s because we’re really just sponges waiting for the next virus to absorb and can’t wait for the chance for the next parade of them that’s just around the corner. So do whatever little things you can to keep yourself healthy and on guard. Washing your hands, drinking herbal tea, keeping a regular exercise regiment are all preventative measures. Our bodies are temples and not the weird kind which get covered on National Geographic specials. Also, vaccinate your kids for crying out loud.
  1. Perspective:  And if you don’t have some, then get some. We as humans have survived everything. Its why we’re still here after thousands of years. The best part is that when plague and pestilence come, and despite what loss we’ll endure, we still survive. Value what’s really important. I’ll give you a hint, its not the new Apple Watch. In the event that this Zika thing becomes a bigger threat than it currently is, we’ll figure out what to do but the right way to go about things won’t be to panic by setting your neighbor’s car on fire or wearing nothing but plastic wrap to protect you from whatever radioactivity might be on the horizon.

The next plague or disaster is always just around the corner, but its what you do with yourself that can make a possible Apocalypse a little less hard.

Want to learn more about surviving an apocalypse with as little effort as possible? Get The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse and 50 Shades of Greg today!

50 Shades of Greg by Daphne Lamb now available on Amazon!

Mr. Right is hard to find in an Apocalypse. But, Mr. Right Now just won’t go away.

I am so psyched and thrilled to announce the released of 50 Shades of Greg by my good friend and fellow Fabulous Fictionista, Daphne Lamb.

50SOG_cv_HRIt’s the end of the world as we know it, and Verdell is just okay.

In this bitingly funny short story follow-up to The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse, Daphne Lamb gives us a glimpse of dating in a new world disorder.

The handful of survivors of a viral Incident (thanks, infected transplant organs from China) are scraping by and dealing with water rationing and oddly-named street gangs, among other things. Still, girls just want to have fun. Verdell’s housemates drag her to a club – the height of post-Incident chic in an abandoned gas station with a battery-powered CD player, and a ‘bar’ serving drinks that taste suspiciously like gasoline.

Verdell finds it’s not so bad to let loose for one night. It’s the morning after when she finds a random Greg in her bed that is the problem.
When Greg decides she’s the love of his life and takes drastic steps to prove it, she realizes post-apocalyptic dating has new rules that are as crazy as the survivors.

Get 50 Shades of Greg now at Amazon!

Be Your Own Penguin of Happiness

I decided this morning that I am going to be part of the change I want to see.
I want to see kindness sweep over the world, taking people unawares and changing a billion lives in a billion little ways from a million little gestures.

I will no longer read or share stories of problems without solutions. I will only share stories of people who have found a way to help or fix things that are wrong to inspire us all to do whatever little bit we can.

Campaigns come and go. Scandals come and go. 99% of the things that show up in my Facebook Trending News are worthless and uninteresting escapades of celebrities who have little right to claim that name.
What remains are people like you and me, and the choices we make every day, every hour.
Complaining is not conversation. Choose to look at your problems as opportunities for solutions. It struck me recently that while people often tell me that they are having a “bad day,” I never think to myself that I am having a “bad day.”
Honestly, I never have a “bad day.” I have days where there are a lot of problems to solve, or I am sick, or I am anxious, or something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, or someone is mean to me. But that never seems to color my whole day black.
Maybe it’s because I choose to see it as just a problem that I can figure out how to deal with. Is this trying to rationalize away my emotions? Yes…and no. I definitely feel the anger, frustration, hurt, and pain. But, I also choose to be in control of it. I refuse to be passive in letting my emotions rule me willy-nilly.
I always say, “You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can ALWAYS choose how you deal with it.”
I have yet to see anything that could sway me from that position.
I don’t have “bad days.” I have a day where I am thankful to be alive and able to experience the world, and yeah, there are some things to deal with, but the alternative is not being around to experience anything…so now you see why I have no bad days.
Now, I am taking that philosophy to the world and what I share with the world, and what I want the world to share with me.
If you see something in the world you can’t fix, find something you can right next to you. We are humanity cradled in a web of joy, sorrow, catastrophe, and greatness. There is no person untouched.
This bricklayer probably passed his whole life never imagining this sort of thing could happen to him. But one small act of compassion and sharing of his own resources not only saved this little bird’s life, but created a story that has swept the world and reminds us all today to reach out and do something kind.
So, that’s that. Choose happiness, gratitude, courage, and control. Be kind, share kind, give kind…and, maybe, just maybe we’ll find our own penguin of happiness.

The Business of Being a Writer with ADHD

An example of all the iterations of organization I go through to get to a workable to-do list for a day/week.
An example of all the iterations of organization I go through to get to a workable to-do list for a day/week.

Lazy. Lack of work ethic. Slow. Procrastinator. Distractible. Squirrel. Unproductive. Confused. Frustrated. Angry. Panic. Anxiety. Late.


Yes, that could be any of our to-do lists. But if you suffer from ADHD, you know that no matter how many planners, apps, systems, and timer tricks you use, you will always feel behind and inadequate.

Today, I’m not going to talk about “writing” with ADHD. That’s a whole different barrel of squirrels.

Today, I’m talking about the BUSINESS of being a writer with ADHD. Yeah, OMG, I said the B-word. The nasty, commercial slur on our pure art.

Okay, distracted, gut-reaction rants on why writers need to be doing marketing and treating themselves as a small business aside, there’s still the whole issue of working with ADHD.

For most of my life, I didn’t know I had ADHD. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t as consistently productive as other people. I marveled at anyone who could exist without a list, or just settle down and plow through tasks.

My coping mechanisms were lists and deadlines. But coping mechanisms are a double-edged sword, and I began to have lists of lists, charts, calendars, and master plans. I had to play games with myself to get stuff crossed off my lists.

And then, just as I started to check a few things off my list, I’d feel the urge to rewrite it, and I’d end up with nothing crossed off and a sinking feeling of being behind.

I’d also be angry and frustrated with myself that I needed to take the time to constantly work with my lists. Other people just wrote stuff down and made it work. I had to write, rewrite, reorganize things two or three times before I felt I had a list I could work with.

Even after I started understanding that I had ADHD, taking Adderall, and doing cognitive behavioral therapy, I found I was still angry and anxious at the amount of time I still spent organizing myself before I could get down to work.

Then, two weeks ago, a minor miracle occurred.

Okay, it was a big freaking miracle in my world and kinda changed my life, but I don’t like to be melodramatic about things.

I accepted the fact that this was just how I needed to do things in order to get my ADHD brain to understand what I needed to, how to do it, and when to do it by.

Suddenly, I was free. I was 20 pounds lighter in my heart. I wasn’t a struggling freak who was wasting time.

Writing, rewriting, organizing, and reorganizing was simply the way I managed my productivity goals. I accepted that I needed to build in time at the start of my day to do this. Once I felt I had a list that was reasonable (i.e. using my cognitive behavioral therapy techniques of cutting my to-do’s in half because the executive functions in my brain don’t work right and can’t calculate time correctly) and that I understood (i.e. actually seeing the reason behind what was priority for the day and accepting that other priorities would have to wait for tomorrow and the world wouldn’t end as a result), I could get on with my day and actually be productive.

So now, when I feel the anxiety rising, I realize that my thoughts are starting to run wild and that I need to sit down and take 10 minutes to reorganize myself. I make mini-lists based on the time remaining in my “work day” and what I can reasonably accomplish.

I still have multiple lists. I still have lists of lists. I still have master plans.

But, I don’t resent them anymore. I understand their purpose. I accept them as the helpers they are. Do I wish that I didn’t need to spend time working through setting up my lists? Heck yes! The things I could do with an extra half-hour a day!

But, better to lose that half-hour in list-writing and be productive for the rest of the day than become anxious, paralyzed by worry about whether I’m doing the most important thing I should be doing, unable to focus, and ending up curled in a little ball playing Soda Crush.

How do you organize yourself for your writing business to-do’s? I’m always looking to learn new strategies and techniques for time management and productivity, so feel free to share!!!