How to Write a Software Book With ADHD and a Learning Disability
If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ll know I have ADHD and a learning disability. These conditions don’t make major projects like writing books easy; yet I somehow managed to write and release my first software book this year. Here’s how I did it.
About the Book: Cut Into the Jamstack
A bit of background on the book itself first.
The book centers around a set of technologies I use often and am passionate about (Next.js, React and others). It also focuses on something practical: teaching readers how to build a commercial software application. One that does something useful and collects money for it. This is valuable for 2 particular reasons: first that it’s something a lot of developers want to do themselves, to make money or show off their talents. Secondly, it teaches people to learn the whole lifecycle of developing a product in a hands-on manner.
It’s an early release (so maybe 30-40% done), but still 107 pages. So as such, it felt like quite the achievement on my part.
ADHD Challenges and Solutions
Here are the things that I found challenging because of my ADHD and learning disability, and how I addressed them.
Picking the book’s focus.
I started with a loose idea (how to build a SaaS app with Next.js and React). I jotted lots of ideas down. At some point, I got decision paralysis and just decided to start writing code and content. I figured that eventually, as things started to take form, I’d be able to get them into a central focus.
I kept thinking of the phrase a writing teacher taught me in college, “I didn’t know what I thought until I saw what I said. ” I.e., write it down now and Figure it out from there.
Organizing the book’s content.
After I had a ton of content, it was a bit of a mess. I started to put myself in the shoes of a reader. What was the smallest version of an app I could build that would demonstrate some of these concepts? What were the most direct lessons? As I contemplated these things, I was able to break the initial chapters down into manageable units.
I started the book concept in October. My wife was due to have a baby in April. I committed myself to get some version of the book out before the baby came. So daily, I was reinforcing that motivation in my mind. And daily, it motivated me to make a little bit of progress, even if it was just writing a few sentences or a few lines of code.
Dealing with boredom.
It’s easy to get bored with ADHD. In this case, I was highly passionate about this project (it’s my first product and first book), so I was very energized to work on it. There were times when I was in the middle of something (a particular chapter, bug, task, etc.), and my brain didn’t want to continue through it at the moment.
In those cases, I used these different strategies, which often work very well for me when I can use them:
- Reiterating why I was doing this task. If I was getting lost in the weeds of an issue with server deployment, I’d remind myself that the end result is that people would be able to see the app I was building. That part excites me personally since I love showing off my work and using it to teach people.
- Switching tasks. Sometimes multitasking, though not natively productive, can be valuable if you’re spinning your wheels in your current task. I’d often give myself a break from one boring thing, jump onto another for a boost, and be able to revisit the other one afterward and make progress.
- Reviewing my progress and calling it a night. If I was zoning out while trying to work on the book in the evening, I’d remind myself of what I had done so far and be appreciative of my work. If that didn’t give me the boost I needed to continue (or if I deemed it would hurt my sleep quality if I continued), I’d call it a day, remembering that good sleep will help me do this better the next day.
A big helper with this book was also being able to work on it between projects at my company, Echobind. Whenever there was a minute of downtime, including times when waiting on a client’s response or while eating my lunch, I’d write or organize my content for a few minutes.
Here’s the book if you’re curious: Cut Into the Jamstack: Build and deploy a full-stack application using React and Next.js.
I suspect that it will be good for ADHD readers as well, but I definitely want to nurture that over time with feedback.
Overall I feel like this is a major personal accomplishment! And it gives me a lot of hope that others with ADHD or LD could accomplish the same if they wanted to.
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