Are You an Artist With ADHD Who is Having Trouble Focusing on Your Art?
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
If I told you Picasso, da Vinci, and van Gogh all shared 9 weird traits…wouldn’t you be curious to see what the traits were?
Wouldn’t you want to know if you possessed them too?
But what if I went on to tell you the set of traits were those of ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)?
Still got your hand up?
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood.
It includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.
ADD is the same condition – minus the hyperactivity.
And it’s not just great artists like da Vinci, Picasso, and van Gogh who are thought to have had it.
Some of the world’s best writers like Hemingway and Hans Christian Anderson probably had ADHD too.
But we make a lot of incorrect assumptions about the condition.
So let’s look at the six biggest myths floating around about ADHD. And meet 3 modern-day artists who thrive despite its challenges.
6 Biggest Myths About Artists with ADHD
1st Myth: ADHD is a Gift
Reality: ADHD is a Serious Stumbling Block for Artists
I began researching this story with the romantic notion that ADHD was some sort of misunderstood gift. A gift geniuses get that an artist or writer might not mind having.
But the therapists, artists, and experts I interviewed for this post promptly pushed me right out of my little ivory tower.
Just because a few of the most brilliant minds in history may have learned to harness a particular superpower of their ADHD, (which we’ll talk more of later) doesn’t mean the disorder is something to dance ’round a Maypole for.
Contrary to the current rumblings in the media, “ADHD is definitely not a ‘gift’ or a ‘blessing,’” said Rick Green, Canadian actor, writer, comedian, and co-founder of totallyadd.com.
“Those of us with ADHD get fired more often than others on average,” said Green. “We also have more: car accidents, dropouts, more expulsions and higher divorce rates than the general population.”
Some Other Things Artists with ADHD Are Up Against
Green also notes: “We struggle with procrastination, perfectionism, and overwhelm.
- Are quick to say yes to everything
- Have a sense of underachieving
- Are quick to start new projects but struggle to finish them
- Fight with poor self-esteem
- Have difficulty managing details
- Struggle to manage our finances
- Lose it with deadlines
- Not to mention often having to deal with anxiety or depression.”
Artists with ADHD Also Seem To Spend A Lot of Time Looking For Things
Painter Vicky Knowles points out two other stumbling blocks she and many of her fellow ADD artists experience on a daily basis:
“I seem to waste a huge amount of time looking for things,” said Knowles. When my environment is orderly I feel peaceful but for the life of me, I can’t maintain that. Time management is also a big issue for me. I always underestimate how long it will take to find something, prepare for a show, or create in general.”
How many of us have no idea where a certain thing we really need this moment has actually disappeared to, within the bowels of our own studio?
But there is a world of difference between feeling slightly scattered, and being overwhelmed with despair around one’s inability to complete a task.
2nd Myth: All Artists Have ADHD To Some Extent
Reality: Um… No, They Don’t
Many ADHD creatives know scads of other artists and actors with ADHD.
But that doesn’t mean all of us creatives have it.
“Because those with ADHD have highly creative or divergent thinking it’s logical that people have speculated that artists have a higher rate of ADHD than those in other fields,” said psychologist and author Ari Tuckman. “It’s possible, but no definitive data exists to prove that.”
“It’s true that people who have ADHD do tend to be more creative and divergent in their thinking than the general population, said Tuckman.
“But it’s not just artists who struggle with ADHD, said Tuckman. “I work with accountants who have it too.”
3rd Myth: If You’re an Artist with ADHD, You Know It
Reality: Mid Life Diagnosis is Common
Not everyone discovered they had ADHD as a kid.
Half the battle with adult ADHD is not knowing what’s the matter with you.
You might mistakenly believe you can’t finish things because you are not smart enough or you’re lazy or “flakey.”
I would think it takes guts to even go take the test for ADHD. (If you want to try an online version you can visit this Do I Have ADD? page.
“I suspected I might have ADHD,” said analog collage artist Shawn Marie Hardy.
“My situation was so bad I couldn’t finish high school with the rest of my class.” Hardy has since gone on to attend both college and art school despite ADHD.
“Originally I had heard such negative connotations about people with ADHD that I didn’t want to find out for sure if that’s what I had too.”
It wasn’t until fairly recently Hardy gathered the courage to take the test that proved conclusive for ADHD.
“The diagnosis gave me a concrete reason for why things had been so chaotic in my life and allowed me to work on addressing it in a more constructive way.”
4th Myth: There Is Only One Right Way For Artists To Address ADHD
Reality: Artists with ADHD Do Best Creating Their Own Unique Tool Kit
One size fits all solutions don’t work with ADHD.
“Whether you’re an artist or not, whether you’ve got ADHD or not, you need to go with the particular strengths that you have and compensate for the particular weaknesses, so you can live the life you want to,” Dr. Tuckman said.
Rick Green agrees; “Everyone impacted by ADHD has their own issues and their own solutions.”
“Ideally you make your own holistic toolbox of structures and tricks,” said Green. “For me, it’s yoga, mindfulness meditation, a mostly vegan diet, medication when I need it, a coach, online planning tools, etc.”
Got Any Cappuccino In Your Toolbox?
I love that Shawn Marie Hardy’s personalized toolbox contains a lovely, aromatic go-to. Coffee.
“Coffee gives me a short burst of calm, euphoria and opens me up to intense chains of deep thought,” said Hardy.
“I’ve learned to use coffee judiciously to create and enforce a kind of order in my day that I didn’t use to have.”
5th Myth. Artists with ADHD Are Isolated Loners
Reality: Many Artists with ADHD are Ten Times More Social Than Us
(OK, Ten Times More Social Than Me)
The ADHD creatives I’ve met struggle with feelings of isolation. However, they try to work with that and tend to interact with others to a degree that puts my loner-writer self to shame.
Knowles has found group interaction and group deadlines are a great tool to combat her ADD-influenced problem with prioritization and procrastination.
“Participating in online group events like 30 Paintings in 30 Days, Inktober, and Drwlloween,” Knowles said, “reinforces a consistent work habit for me.”
“The structure of reoccurring themed monthly contests like Nibblefest, which I used to run,” said Knowles, “make it easier for me to decide what to paint — as I can have a propensity to get overwhelmed when I have too many options.”
Knowles (a prolific painter) believes being accountable to a group or anyone other than just herself, always increases her chances of following through. This brings us to our final myth.
Myth 6. If You’re An Artist with ADHD You Can’t Succeed
Reality: Many Artists with ADHD Outproduce and Outsell Artists Without the Disorder
Yes, ADHD puts creatives behind the eight ball.
But despite this, ADHD artists who are aware of their disorder and work to manage it can cope and even flourish.
Many ADHD artists manage to produce gobs of art on a regular basis.
In fact, each artist I interviewed produced more work per week than I do (ahem) in a month.
Knowles maintains a full-time practice as a professional painter and holds down a day job.
Even though Hardy is a perfectionist who can incorporate up to one hundred hand-cut images into a single collage, she often produces and posts one intricate work per week.
Collages in Hardy’s recent series devoted to dreamscapes have garnered more than 42,000 views this past June alone on Pinterest.
Do these ADHD artists have some sort of superpower or what?
The Silver Lining of ADHD: The Superpower Known as Hyper Focus
What’s Green’s, Hardy’s, and Knowles’ secret?
It would be irresponsible to generalize. Every ADHD artist’s tale is unique. Hard work on themselves, their art, and the way they structure their time seem to be major factors.
And you can’t ignore one other thing.
Green, Knowles, Hardy, da Vinci, van Gogh and Picasso share a superpower called hyper focus.
Hyper focus is the ability to concentrate for superhuman periods of time on a subject the ADHDer is passionate about.
Green lists it and four other ADHD traits in his article 5 Superpowers of ADHD.
Hyper Focus Helped Edison Invent the Lightbulb
It’s generally accepted that inventor Thomas Edison had ADHD and indulged in a bit of hyper focus himself.
“Before succeeding in inventing the light bulb, Edison failed 10,000 times,” writes Robert Genn. “When a reporter asked Edison if he wasn’t discouraged with his failures, he was said to have answered that he didn’t consider them failures. Rather, he had found 10,000 ways not to do it. This ultimately led to his success.”
“Despite its name, ADHD isn’t always a deficit of attention,” Green said.
Knowles agrees: “Hyperfocus has made it possible for me to frequently paint through the night and into the morning when I need to. The most positive aspect of ADHD for me,” Knowles said, “is my ability to hyper focus and work for extended periods.”
Hardy thinks while there is definitely a downside to hyperfocus (like not being able to stop looking for something) the upside is that when she is engrossed in her work there is little that can stop her from completing it.
Sorry guys, the superpower of hyperfocus can’t be acquired, but we can attempt to simulate the positive results it produces for ADHD artists by trying something you may already be smart enough to be doing.
What would that be?
Making wheelbarrows full of art, without letting the discouraging, shabby voices of our inner critics slow us down.
What All Creatives Can Learn from Artists with ADHD
One reason I think hyper focus helps ADHD artists succeed is that it allows them to temporarily bypass their inner critic and make a whole lot of art.
But isn’t it quality not quantity, that’s key in art-making?
Nope. Quantity gets artists to quality.
In the book, Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, authors David Bayles and Ted Orland share a story about a ceramics class that will help you get my point about what we need to pick up from our colleagues who have ADHD.
“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work- and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”
The Big Take Away Here for All Artists
If you have ADHD or not; producing (and possibly discarding) large amounts of work is not only liberating; it’s the quickest route to finding gold.
The gold that lies within your own monstrous mistake mound.
This brings us back to where we began, talking about Picasso.
Despite probably having ADHD, and perhaps with the help of hyperfocus, Picasso produced a staggering 50,000 or so pieces of art in his lifetime.
Georgia O’Keeffe, a prolific painter herself, clocked in at only 2,229.
Sotheby’s Auction House may want you to think every scrap of paper; every print or sculpture in Picasso’s virtual art pile is a bonafide masterpiece.
But could each and every one of those 50,000 sketches and objects really be perfection itself?
The fact that Picasso made so much art in the first place, increases my respect for him as an artist.
Whether you have ADHD or not, forgiving your art for being imperfect and allowing yourself to persist in making piles of it anyway, can clear the path to recognize, strengthen and celebrate your unique genius.
Artists with ADHD or without, especially female artists, might benefit from a teaspoon of “Insanely-Confident-Essence-of-Picasso.”
After all, he’s the guy who said:
“Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.”—Pablo Picasso
What do you think?
Are you an artist who creates despite ADHD?
What is one thing in your toolkit? What do you use that helps? Coffee? Yoga? Bullet Journals?
I’d love to know in the Comments below.
It might help other folks as well.
Resource Guide for Artists with ADHD
7 Great Books for Artists with ADHD
- A.D.D. and Creativity: Tapping Your Inner Muse by Lynn Weiss, Ph.D. (Two artists I interviewed credited this book as the turning point in their journey as an artist with ADHD.)
- ADD Stole My Car Keys: The Surprising Ways Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Affects Your Life… and Strategies for Creating a Life You Love by Rick Green and Umesh Jain (Highly Recommend This One, funny yet profound with one-page chapters.)
- Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life With Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey.
- Help for Women with ADHD: My Simple Strategies for Conquering Chaos by Joan Wilder.
- More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD by Ari Tuckman, PsyD.
- PLAYDHD: Permission to Play, a Prescription for Adults with ADHD by Kirsten Milliken.
- The Adult ADHD Tool Kit by J. Russell Ramsay and Anthony Rostain.
6 Excellent Online & Video Resources
- Watch over 90 free videos on totallyadd.com. This site offers some of the best resources online for adults who think they may have ADHD.
- Psychologist Ari Tuckman recommends America’s National ADHD Organization website, CHADD.Org.
- ADD & Loving It?! A Documentary by Rick and Ava Green. Watch the ADD & Loving It?! trailer here:
- The PBS sequel, ADD & Mastering It! with Patrick McKenna and Rick Green is an accessible, humorous resource full of experts’ tools and strategies to survive and thrive with ADHD. Watch the “ADD & Mastering It” trailer here.
- Ever consider teaming up with a life coach for support? You may find someone you relate to at The ACO: An ADHD Coaching Organization. One colleague I respect, the ADHD coach John Tucker, Ph.D. is part of the ACO. He’s wise, has a great sense of humor, and offers a free call.
A version of this article I wrote was originally published in the final issue of Professional Artist Magazine in 2018.
You might also like to read these Charmed Studio posts:
- Daily Writing Ritual to Banish Fear and Open Your Heart (Also Works for Painting)
- How Artists Can Write More Often: 1 Realization That Can Change Everything
- How Artists Can Write More Clearly
- Improve Your Art Writing Overnight by Forbidding Yourself To Do 2 Things
- The Good Enemy Writing Technique
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Anthony Parks says
Lifelong ADHD artist, diagnosed as a kid. Occasionally was on medication which _destroyed_ my creativity. The thing that drives me insane about the labeling of ADHD is, what is so great about people who don’t have ADHD? Do we want a world where we all function like Big 4 accountants who have everything meticulously planned and never lose anything? Give me a break. Yeah, you need to find things to make life more manageable. So what? Everyone does. For me, regular exercise, in particular cardiovascular exercise, and just walking periodically throughout the day, my creative outlets, and some social outlets tend to keep things in balance. I’ve had a great life but I don’t see my ‘diagnosis’ as a burden whatsoever.
Thanks Anthony for this comment. Brilliant. I think this question of yours is a great one: “The thing that drives me insane about the labeling of ADHD is, what is so great about people who don’t have ADHD?”
excellent article. the best i’ve seen on the topic.
the job issue is tricky. for awhile i did housepainting and worked on my music through the night. switched to temp office work which was far better but still a waste of time. then made a strategic decision – taught myself graphic design so i could spend my day doing visual art. but there was a hitch. you start off doing “production” which means I’m spending my days doing fixes on other people’s designs – typos, moving an image a few points up or to the left. my brain won’t examine the page in a predictable path (left to right, down, left to right). my eyes would naturally scan the page randomly so i’d constantly miss parts that needed a fix. got fired a lot.
then i got a gig at a small ad agency and they liked my designs. i was given lots of design projects appropriate for a quirky look. when i got home i had plenty of energy for my own work. i was the only one there who would hyperfocus through the night in the office to meet a deadline so this weird ADD guy was an asset.
Thanks, Polarity/1 for your welcome contribution to the article in the comments. Props to quirky. In design, in writing and in all the arts. Quirky is a sign of great intelligence. I like that you found a design firm that appreciates your work. That’s a good lesson for all of us. Two quotes come to mind here I will end with.
“Go where you are celebrated – not tolerated. If they can’t see the real value in you, it’s time for a new start.” -Ralph Smart
“Go weird not wide.” Rich Litvin
Keep the faith. Keep believing in your work.
Joshua Mount says
I didnt read all the comments so I apologize if this has been mentioned but in the article I dont recall any note made on the mechanism of ADHD in the way that dopamine is processed. Often I experience lows, similar to depression, due to my ADHD. It can be hard to get off the couch, or start that next thing. You know you need to, you may even want to but you just don’t have the steam to make it happen. If this is happening, I try to listen to music that is nostalgic in nature. For me, it’s stuff I listened to in middle school through college. Anything that would have given me an explosion of dopamine in the past gives me sparks of dopamine now and often, it can kick start hyperfocus.
Joshua what a wonderful point. No one I interviewed mentioned the link between ADHD and dopamine. It’s a deep topic that deserves its own article or even a small book. You seem like a strong writer maybe you should write an article on it! If you need any tips on how to pitch the article to an editor or ideas for which magazines might be interested, reach out to me through my contact form. If I can help you in any way I will. It’s important. I hope others will read your comment and apply your wisdom born of experience.
YES!!!! I often am sitting just feet away from a table filled with art supplies, already with an idea (ok 100s of ideas) of I want to create and yet feeling like I’m glued to the couch. I hate that feeling. I feel frustrated with and disappointed in myself, which of course doesn’t exactly create dopamine so it becomes a vicious cycle too. And it’s really hard to explain to ppl why you can’t just “will” yourself to get up and do something that you actually *want* to! (Forget about the things I need to do and don’t enjoy, you can imagine how often that stuff gets done!)
I know this is super after the fact but I really appreciated this article. It wasn’t that there was necessarily new info in here but the tone and the way it was written was supportive and thoughtful, and didn’t fall into the omg ppl with ADHD are a hot mess and can’t get stuff together camp or the more currently popular version of ppl with ADHD are magical unicorns with super superpowers that we should all be so lucky to have camp! I wish I didn’t have ADHD, but I think it does help me see issues/ideas/solutions very quickly and in a very different way than most ppl. And I do like when I’m hyper focused on the *right* thing. (Although it can also function like a compulsion or addictive behavior when it’s combined with internet/apps/social media/online marketplaces. I can get stuck focused on something super trivial for a ridiculous amount of time or it feels like I’m physically unable to stop and ‘break the spell’ until I find whatever random thing I’m looking for (this morning, with many many other things to do, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for an LA area Yellow Pages from the 1970s- don’t ask!!) I won’t stop even when I need to use the bathroom, eat, sleep, work, literally anything else. And then I realize I’ve wasted a crazy amount of time – AGAIN – and then I feel bad/guilty/shameful which in turn does not encourage dopamine/productivity…and the cycle continues. Sometimes meds help, (not consistently), sometimes talking to a friend breaks the cycle for a few days, sometimes I’m able to find some little hack – alarms, multiple reminders to help me transition to new tasks etc, but I have yet to find anything consistently effective and it’s a constant effort and struggle just to do basic adult tasks let anything creative.
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone honestly but i guess not having it would make me an entirely different person – and despite all my complaining tonight!!- I generally like myself!
Alllllll that to say…great comment and I really appreciated the article, thank you! Lol
And yes I know this size of this post – never mind the content, digressions, over-exclamations- is the epitome of “tell me you have ADHD without telling me you have ADHD!”
I’ll see myself out!!🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️
Lisa Recchia says
Thank you so much for this wonderful piece! I’m an artist with ADHD and I’m constantly on the hunt for good resources. I’m actually now in university for the second time, this time to get my Bachelor of Education degree to become a high school art teacher.
I was diagnosed when I was 24 and entering an art university after being in a fine arts program at a college. It was such a rocky time because they really do give you almost no information outside of the most basic facts about ADHD (in my experience, at least). Over the last 6 years I have learned so, so much about ADHD through my own research and connecting with others. I think it’s really important as well to keep in mind that when looking at things like who gets diagnosed, there are so many things that can interfere with getting an early diagnosis, like perceptions of behaviours associated with race, gender, and culture.
I struggled enormously with the ignorance of professors and other students while I was in art school. I thought it would be the perfect place for a person like me, but of course it was not immune to the ways that society views ADHD. I would tell anyone reading this who’s in a similar situation to not let it get to you: Learn as much as you can about ADHD to counter what’s being said to you. Even if you aren’t comfortable with speaking out, it’s important to have that awareness in your own head. If they tell you that the way you’re making art is wrong, doesn’t work, isn’t normal (all things that have been said to me )because of the ways you generate ideas and engage with media, know for yourself that they are incorrect. And if you do speak out, you never know but there might be someone who hears you who is silently struggling with ADHD as well.
Now that I’m trying to become an educator, I’m encountering the same issues. People are generally more open and understanding but the school system was still not made with people like us in mind. It’s a daily battle to make sure that other future educators (and our professors) need to remember the neurodivergent. I know, like you said here, that many people with ADHD end up in artistic spaces, and it’s going to become an integral part of my teaching practice to make sure that there is consideration and space for them, while also being open and honest about having ADHD to combat the incorrect views of it. The beauty is that many of the things that can be beneficial for a student with ADHD work just as well for someone without. When I was in high school and struggling every day, I thought I would grow up and be nothing. Something was “wrong” with me and I didn’t know what, and it wasn’t possible to envision a future for myself. If nothing else comes of my teaching practice, hopefully at least one student who’s also struggling with ADHD will see me and know that they could be a teacher if they wanted to.
ANYWAY, that was very long but thank you again! I’m putting this in my resources file and sharing it with the other future teachers in my program to make sure they’re educated! I really appreciated that you have an audio version of this available as well, it’s immensely helpful for those of us that having reading difficulties.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wise insights with myself and my readers. I think you make some brilliant, important, heartfelt points. You seem like a strong writer to me, have you ever considered writing articles for educational magazines?
I also want to say this point you made is so noteworthy and rarely mentioned: “there are so many things that can interfere with getting an early diagnosis, like perceptions of behaviors associated with race, gender, and culture.” If you can get this into some magazines it will be such a service to other ADHD people and to teachers. There is a great magazine called “Teaching Tolerance” that is part of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I think it might be a great platform for you (and they pay very well for written work). 🙂 Keep the faith, thanks for becoming a high school art teacher, the world needs you. Here are the writer’s guidelines for that magazine.https://www.tolerance.org/about/writing-for-teaching-tolerance. GO FOR IT! If you have a question about how to submit to an editor don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.
Completely agree! How lucky those kids will be to have a teacher who will be able to encourage them, correct the negative, shaming voices (internal and external) that all ADHD kids hear, serve as a model for what future success, despite obstacles, can look like, and offer them firsthand experience of ideas and hacks that they can put to practical use. All of that on top of, I’m sure, having really unique, out of the box creative ideas and ways of creating art.
And while I’m sure you will be awesome for ND, NT, all genders etc you will be sooooo important for girls. There’s still so much misinformation and an additional layer of stigma that impacts girls and women, and how hormones, cycles, etc impact both the disorder and treatments.
I can’t imagine what having a teacher like you would’ve done for me and how that would’ve then impacted my life. By most measures I’ve been pretty successful but good grief it’s taken a LOT of effort to swim against the tide of constant negative self talk all of which started as a kid.
The thought of kids, especially little girls, having a safe, compassionate teacher who completely gets why their brains function the way they do; how challenging/stigmatizing the world can be and reminding them that they’re not worthless, lazy, crazy, ditzy, dumb etc etc makes me feel really happy and genuinely hopeful! Little girls growing up to be women who feel good about themselves and feeling freer to express themselves creatively? Just thinking about that is giving me dopamine!!
Abby Holmes says
Hey, I’m a young teen artist currently troubling with having no care to finish my digital or paper drawings due to my ADD. The most recent thing I’ve finished was probably in early May- April! so I’ve been dealing with multiple drafts almost every day. I’ve always done this, but the past few weeks I’ve just been making multiple drafts without finishing. I believed this was just an art block and it would pass, in fact I’m not quite sure what the average time is for one but my are usually just a week. Not to mention my creativity has not shriveled, but more the courage to finish this. I looked on the worldwide internet for help and found out this could happen to an artist with ADD. Do you have any advice for me to perhaps get through this? Because my creative side is going bonkers I can’t finish line art or color anything. Thanks for listening! 🙂
The Charmed Studio says
Thanks Abby, I totally hear you and it sounds like ADD may absolutely be the stumbling block. But I want to give you the best, most helpful answer. So let me pass your question on to one of the artists with ADD I interviewed for this post. Is that cool with you? Thea
Abby Holmes says
Yes it’s alright! Thank you for trying to help! ( ^v^)
Hi Thea and everyone,
I know, this forum is a kind place and you won’t hurl IPhone in my head, if I my opinion differs from yours.
Since doctors didn’t help me with a serious disease I had (I helped myself, won’t bore you with the details), there is no encouragement and use for me to go and check “oh, maybe I have Asperger’s or some other syndrome”. I am quite happy not knowing, since healing is up to me anyway. A doctor will be only too happy to stick a disease label on me (not Moscato type), but I prefer to see all my peculiarities as character and temperament, not a disease.
What is my answer? I build “customized life” for myself. I tried 9-5 job and I know now – this is not my thing. So, I don’t do it and look for other options. I need a lot of “alone time” and I don’t like surprise calls or visits. So, I manage my life accordingly. You get the idea.
Thea – with “quantity, not quality” – I absolutely agree. Tried it on everything – from languages to writing and art.
Only “marathons” do not work for me. I prefer “going with the flow”. There are days when I absolutely cannot bear the thought of painting or writing. And skipping these activities for a few days does not mean these days are lost. Ideas come even when I cook or watch a movie. The work inside continues. And when they don’t come – work still continues. You can be sure of that.
There is also a great thing of following your impulses. To do something. So often these suppressed impulses will turn into this or that disease. Only because there could’ve been too much “marathon’” or other pushing.
But for everyone her own. Just a few thoughts
The Charmed Studio says
Marianna, You are right, kindness reigns here, I would never let anyone “throw an iPhone” at your lovely head. And disagreement or differing views make a discussion richer, not poorer, right? Thank you for your feedback and insights and experiences. And yes Everyone has their own row to hoe. And getting a “diagnosis” may not be right for you. Totally get that. Autonomy is often an undersung virtue in AMA land.
Besides, Rick Green and Shawn Marie Hardy both mentioned to me something to the effect of-only you can come up with the perfect tool kit for your own condition’ anyway. Each of us is made differently. With a seeming kaleidoscope of moving mental and physical variables/moving parts. What matters is you are happy and confident in your chosen adaptations to making life workable for you as an artist and human-brava! I always think of one of my favorite fictional heroes, Zorba the Greek, in these kinds of situations and ask-WWZD? what would Zorba Do? He, like you, was probably not a marathon guy either. Have an abundant,lush, Spring.
PS I would like to do a post on Aspergers someday as well.
Thank you, Thea! And for the great audio set up. It makes all the difference for me – between listening to the podcast and not listening 😉 You are right, I am creating my own “tool kit’.
The Charmed Studio says
You helped me get motivated to implement the audio changes, I appreciate that. I myself prefer to listen to posts too, because I don’t enjoy reading or even editing work online. I only love to read actual books (not ebooks). We all are different and need to honor our unique ways of staying well and/or inspired in order to better care for ourselves and others.
Ian McNamara says
Sheesh! … All my life a fizzling charged personality, regarded as very clever and also artistically gifted , the getting out of which seemed like getting my stuff through the eye of a needle, though there were moments of “proof ” of my gifts, but I did not believe in myself.
I’m a road less travelled type, C PTSD with Dyslexia, the latter appearing as stress word blindness in Uni exams way back in the 60’s
How could the Dux of my wee primary school be so???
C PTSD came from an NDE event in 1948 about which i knew nothing until 1998, so my traumatised stressed limbic system had led me a merry ( actually not) dance without my realising it.
Despite diligently working with CBT to heal, I seemed to be stuck, like my breeks were caught on some barbed wire fence and i could not progress. Cue Yosemite Sam…
However, just by chance, or if you like serendipity, I came across an article about AD/HD which of course couldn’t apply to me, but …Wait a mo , I thought AD/HD was something else…
Mea culpa, my own worst enemy …Captain F..k Up
Sits back and reflects on my road less travelled.
So I have a triplicity of disorders? But wait , I was employed for having this ability to make it up as I went along…The best laid plan of mice and men aft gang a gley
My AD/HD was useful within the structure of two type B companies who needed a spring loaded , go-for , solve it -fixit man with the imagination and energy to do it
So, the secret is accept my traits, and create a better organised life structure in my retirement,
with self respect and self value as a keystone…Namaste Y’all
The Charmed Studio says
Ian thanks for sharing your story and I love what you came up with as an action plan. I.E.So, the secret is to accept my traits, and create a better organised life structure in my retirement,
with self-respect and self-value as a keystone.” Sounds like a fine, fine plan to me.
I was intrigued by what you said here too: “But wait , I was employed for having this ability to make it up as I went along…The best laid plan of mice and men aft gang a gley. My AD/HD was useful within the structure of two type B companies who needed a spring loaded , go-for , solve it -fixit man with the imagination and energy to do it.”Could you tell me a bit more? What kind of work did you get employed for? It might be helpful for other ADHD people to know.
Ian McNamara says
Thanks for your reply.
I worked in a comms cell for our National Electricity Company processing the information via telexes , faxes and computing systems which need to talk to each other , but were using different language programmes, so I and my colleagues were interfaces.
I worked best when storms etc caused system faults and the requirement was fast dispersion of information to the repair networks. I was always able to find an extra gear as they say.
When the company went private, I and my colleagues were replaced by a micro chip, but eventually I found employment as a courier/ handy man for a media company which then expanded into exhibitions, where my whizzy skills, imagination and ad hoc lateral thinking proved very useful.
I think the fact that I had a feel good factor about being “very able” in these types of circumstances masked the underlying issue.
This brings me to the question, like whether AD/HD is a disorder except in the context of societal perceptions of what fits into its cosy paradigms .
I think if we cow tow to grey expectations there will be no originality of expression and as my original painting teacher was Rose Wylie, and I multitasked my work with learning art from 1993 onwards, then the little creative devil has to ride out.
This is much more likely now that i know and understand his once unwitting self sabotaging disorganised ways..Namaste
The Charmed Studio says
You are hitting on big, profound questions that are out of my wheelhouse since I don’t have ADHD myself. When I started researching the topic I was approaching ADHD as a different way of thinking, not a disorder.
Rick Green strongly disagrees with that take, but I totally get what you are saying and value your take. I like that you know where you excel-society very much needs people like you that have as you so aptly put it, “An extra gear.” I hear many incredible motorcycle racers, EMT’s, Inventors, Absolutely mind-blowing artists and writers etc have ADHD, it comes in handy for being immersed in the moment. And isn’t the ability to be present, one of the most profound things we can learn to be in life?
Ian McNamara says
Yes Thea ,I believe one of our most damning AD /HD habits is to be “different” the why of which we often cannot explain in a logical manner.
A society built on rigid “mores” can often get to break point, because while a degree of traditional values seems to be its bedrock, each generation will naturally seek to express itself in its own way by “rocking the boat ” as they say.
“Imagine” “Hey Jude”
“Hello Darkness my old friend”
Whether this is natural progress or plain rebellion with or without a cause…is a moot point , there being various subliminal biases active in its formation.
Phillip Larkin the English poet summed it up beautifully ” Your Mum n Dad , they fuck you up”
Often with the best intentions, if they love you ,I say, so I feel calling traits which evolved from ignorance or accidental stupidity as disorders is unkind in my case.
St Augustine said the measure of love is to love without measure…and Chaucer’s heroine said love conquers all…
So despite the personal mayhem caused by my flawed parents, I love them, which sentiment releases me from the entrapment of a personal “hell” Anglo Saxon Sheep pen.
No mythological flames, just a natural freedom of human expression.
Warts and all , so to speak…
The Charmed Studio says
To go with the Beatle’s theme of the evening and St Augustine’s thoughts on love, I think you might like my post on van Gogh (,who was thought to have ADHD) which hums to the tune of “All You Need is Love.” It looks at how he most likely died . Hint — not suicide. https://thecharmedstudio.com/van-gogh-probably-didnt-kill-himself/
Denise McCanles says
This was a really interesting article. I really learn something every time I read your blog. I feel like I’m going to a really cool class that helps motivate me and makes you understand you’re not alone In your insecurities and doubts. I’m very dyslexic so half my comments are probably grammatically upside down. Thank God for spellcheck. And Thea you said a wonderful thing to me at one time. I didn’t want to write a blog because of that and you just told me that shouldn’t get in your way at all. Well this is so off subject but oh well.
The Charmed Studio says
This was totally right side up and lovely. You are not alone in your insecurities and doubts, I have enough insecurities and doubts to keep this blog running on high octane into the 20200’s! I should write a post on how to blog without relying so much on written content. There are a million creative ways to go and many great vlogs/blogs were born out of the need not to write in the standard way. The funny thing is you are a gifted writer, despite what you think.
Here is a tiny small article with alternative ideas:https://goinswriter.com/how-to-blog-when-youre-not-a-writer/
Here is a great post, ( skip the long intro ) and check out the 49 artists who blog listed here. Many do no writing at all and inspire tons of people. Lots of ways to peel your apple.
Such a great post! I love love love the audio New audio versions. Your voice is soothing and funnier in person or live or however you put it. Thanks for all the things you cover. I love coming here. ☺
The Charmed Studio says
YAY! Thanks Gale. I am smiling. I was going to get a logo designed for Charmed Studio Audio, something that would visually explain that there is an audio option. Any ideas? Let me know.xo
Ava G says
Really enjoyed this article Thea. It’s nice to hear about each person’s experience!
The Charmed Studio says
Thank you for being so kind and commenting. Stories of individuals are key. I love interviewing people because I get to peek into a whole new world, a lifetime’s worth of wisdom. I respect what you have created over at TotallyADD.com.
Shawn Marie Hardy says
Well done, Thea! Now it’s time to hyper focus on sleep.
The Charmed Studio says
Thanks for the vote of confidence Shawn. Have a great night/morning.I wonder what kind of art you made in to the wee hours.
Ilsa Elford says
Hello. I wasn’t sure how to leave a comment so I might be on the end of someone else’s. I have known for a long time that my mind works differently to most peoples and also that that is my blessing and curse. I meet other artists i feel suffer as i do with great difficulty in repetitive tasks of day to day life. I don’t have a diagnosis of any condition as I have not set out to get one and I’m a bit scared of a label. I have done an on line test but also one for bipolar and both say that its likely so not shore what to believe or if anything possative would come from knowing for shore. I am almost obsessive about my art and cannot stop a project once it has set root in my brain which i love. I am currently working on a project examining the inner workings of my noodle called brain maze which when finished will be a physical maze with 72 paintings. Each pathway leads to a different aspect of brain function and each painting a narrative story in its own right. Im dyslexic and have great difficulty with confidence but despite this i one a battle over my self and got a funding application into the arts council. It fail and my speeding train was stopped dead. I felt utterly broken even though I knew i was unlikely to get it. Since then i have decided to take the money-making out of art altogether and get a full-time job so that I can keep making it. Im hoping that i will hold it together and create more because of it.
The Charmed Studio says
Hi Ilsa, thank you for your comment. The Maze Painting project sounds great. Have you looked over the resource list in this article yet? I hope you will find a few books and websites in there to help. As far as the arts council goes, I commend you for the courage to apply. Brava. In most cases, not getting a grant is NOT a reflection of the quality of one’s art. If it is any comfort, all the talented professional artists I’ve interviewed endured rejection after rejection from such organizations. The artists I’ve interviewed that do get funding, eventually have gotten it after many, many attempts/applications to many organizations-each filled with trial and error. Here is an article to look at for more info:
Hope it helps.
As far as getting a full-time job goes, I say you can still be a real artist with a full-time job. We tend to buy into the myth that artists have to earn a full-time income from art in order to be a real artist. Not true. The happiest artists I know often have day jobs. Takes the pressure off. And makes art-making fun again for them. Contrary to popular belief, making our art our personal quest instead of a professional one can be tremendously rewarding. All depends on the individual person and the situation. Good luck.