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"First Draft"

We all know the spiel about "shitty first drafts." Sometimes when you have a brilliant idea, all you have to do is muscle through to the end so you can get to editing.

...but what if you can't reach that end? What if you have so many Firsts that a Second is unattainable? Most importantly, is there anything you can do about it?

Hi. I'm Maya. I write. I make movies. I have ADHD. I'd like to answer those questions.

What is Hopscotch Storytelling?

Picture a writer. A good writer. No, a great writer who starts early, delivers on time, and keeps everything organized. This person's got drafts. First, Second, Third. Each shared with trusted advisers, implemented notes, and noticeable transitions and skill development. This writer is held above because they've proven themself as consistent, reliable, and trustworthy. Sure, they get stressed, have doubts sometimes. Nobody's perfect. But those are potholes on an otherwise relatively flat path.

A linear path.

This is not the Hopscotch Storyteller.

If you're not familiar with the classic children's pastime, let me break it down:

Got it?


Understandable. When we think of hopscotch, we picture pastel sidewalk chalk and clip-art suns wearing Ray-bans. We don't think about creative individuals with a debilitating inability to shift from one focal point to another. We don't think about those who have never finished a passion project (and are painfully aware of it). We don't think of it as more than a game--or what happens when some of us can't stop playing.

Because this is a different kind of hopscotch. This is neurological.

When we talk about Hopscotch Storytelling, we're mostly talking about ADHD. Hopscotch is a hyper-vigilant way of looking at how we work in our respective fields. Because, if we're being honest with ourselves, we're always working. Our brains fire on all cylinders a million miles a minute and, for artists, those thoughts can translate to stroke-of-genius ideas. They hit us like a train: we work on them for six hours straight and then never touch them again.

Those ideas accumulate. They stack like Hopscotch squares. If we're looking at the graphic above, we've got seven available squares. We fill them in with the things we want to do most... which are almost always things we're not supposed to be doing. We fill the first six squares with new ideas, ones that fill us with serotonin and adrenaline every time we think of them. Only then do we add the most pressing to spot #7. The report due at midnight. The tax extension ending tomorrow afternoon. The Monday morning meeting that's now in 3.5 hours because you stayed up until 4 AM perfecting your powerpoint's title slide.

We see these things. We know that they're coming. But the only way that we get to that #7 spot is by hopping through all the other squares. And if you know anything about Hopscotch, you know that you can't just hop straight from one to seven -- you have to reach each number, one at a time, turn around, then do it again to reach the next. In case I'm not capturing the essence of the experience, let me try another way:

It's not 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7.

It's 1, 1 - 2 - 1, 1 - skip - 3 - skip - 1, 1 - 2 - skip - 4 - skip - 2 - 1, 1 - 2 - 3 - skip - 5 - skip - 3 - 2 - 1, 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - skip - 6 - skip - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1, 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - skip - 7.

We're always going to have these squares. In terms of severity and form of treatment, some people's squares can be washed away with a garden hose. Others are steamrolled into fresh asphalt by a highway construction team. We'll probably experience both sometime in our lifetime. These squares can feel oppressive. Looking at all the literal hoops we have to jump through to get one thing done can be discouraging. If you never finish anything anyway, what's to stop this one thing from being different? With odds like that, what's the point in trying?

The flip side approach to Hopscotch Storytelling is the overwhelming urge to conquer our squares. To meet all of the expectations. This new way promises to overcome our laziness, and maybe this new way works and maybe it'll be the one that will work forever. There's so many ways we can organize our squares, it makes our minds buzz. Different colors, symbols, numbers, using paint instead of chalk, putting rewards in the boxes if we get to them, we could do anything.

That's the caveat. We could do anything. Choice paralysis to the umpteenth degree. Because Hopscotch is rooted in the concept that ADHD brains have extreme difficulty prioritizing, all those choices and outcomes hold the same weight. We end up right back where we started: exhausted, burnt out, and wondering if next time is going to be any better.

Every day we wake up and see that grid of squares. And every day we look to the person beside us and see them stroll right on by in their straight line. It's enough to make anyone quit. Everyone who is a Hopscotch Storyteller has been one since birth. The only difference is whether or not they're aware of it.

Before I knew that there were certain squares I had to step in every day, I thought I was looking at the same stretch of sidewalk as the those who could walk that "Not Hopscotch" line. I couldn't see that there was something in my way keeping me from keeping up. Instead, I blasted through my forward-and-backward trips to reach the same deadlines -- and my exhaustion and guilt for taking longer prohibited me from recognizing the work I had done. Because right along with your self-critiques, there's always going to be people walking that line looking over and asking, "Why can't you just go around?"

The Hopscotch Storytelling method is to grab the chalk ourselves and draw our own squares. This is much easier said than done. It takes time and dedication, something that we don't always have. That's okay. #1, because I know that I'll never get to walk that straight line, even when I can see where I want to go. I could get angry about my inability to "make myself" walk straight over my squares. I do all the time. Then I remember reason #2.

Hopscotch can be fun. Hopscotch is something that other adults wish they could still do, still find enthralling in their 9-5 office job. I have an incredibly special ability that I'm not treating with the respect it deserves. Every great thing I've done in my life has been because of my Hopscotch brain, and to tell it that it's "wrong" to be the way it is seems incredibly insensitive and just overall rude.

I've had a year to get to this level of acceptance. A year to adjust to constant chalk residue coating everything I touch. When I first found out, I couldn't draw a straight line to save my life. I despised everything about my boxes. That didn't stop them from existing.

It all starts with one square. Figuring out the next thing you want to do and being able to picture it in front of you. Then the next square and the next. Because no matter what, you're going to have to walk that path the same way everybody else does. However, if we can see our squares and recognize when we're in one (and that we can't jump into all 7 at once), that's how we begin to make progress. To make our mark and be proud of it.

Hopscotch Storytelling is a tool. It's not only a way to simplify and explain the thought process behind our unique creativity, but to celebrate and normalize it. If the crutch is available, use it. Trick it out with streamers, install arm-pit warmers, carve your initials into it. Whatever you need to make it yours. Take your time. This one took me a years to build and I'm still getting the hang of it.

It's through this perspective that I'm learning to accept. I know there's nothing wrong with the way that my brain works. Working the way I do allows me to feel such joy once I forgive myself for not working the way others want me to. I was never lazy -- and if you identify as a Hopscotch Storyteller, too, then neither are you. I was always willing to work. There were just parts of myself that couldn't allow me to unless I climbed that first hurdle. I want this place to help others take the first step to a much brighter journey.

One square at a time.


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