Guest Blogs

“You’re Not ADD (Part 3): You’re Artistic”

My mother always saw my messiness, my inconsistencies, and my “elsewhere-ness” not as indicators of ADHD but by-products of my creativity. Approaching midlife, however, I began to feel burdened by my creative nature.

Closeup of brush and palette.

Do you fidget? No, but I doodle in the margins of everything. Are you driven by a motor? No, I’m driven by my insatiable quest for Beauty. Do you daydream a lot? Um, yeah, duh. I’m using my imagination…

When the therapist interviewed my mother to see whether I’d had ADD as a child, mom resisted. She was loath to define me — or any child — pathologically. She had always played up my strengths — and thus my messiness, my inconsistencies, and my “elsewhere-ness,” were simply seen as by-products of my creative nature.

In Driven to Distraction (#CommissionsEarned), Dr. Hallowell talks about how, lacking an inner structure, a mind with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) needs to structure itself around something. How grateful I was that my mother welcomed me and encouraged me to structure my mind around creativity! I was never bored, since she kept me supplied with pencils, crayons and notebooks — all the medicine I ever needed. The impenetrable bedroom was a work-around. I developed my talents and work always came easily. Someone always needed a sketch for something or other. “What is creativity,” asks Hallowell, “but impulsivity gone right?”

Approaching/wading through midlife, however, I was feeling inwardly burdened by my creative nature. My schedule was packed with social events involving costumes, my files were bursting with unfinished sketches and drawings, my house was cluttered with interesting things that needed dusting, and my computer was filling up with unpublished novels. I could barely juggle my twenty clients, all of which wanted a different slice of my graphic design and writing and drawing and designing and creative consulting talents, with all of the volunteer work I wanted to do. On the ADHD screening, however, I showed up as stable, having owned the same business for 20 years and being a pillar of the community.

Searching for connections one day, I found a wonderful article by organization coach Ariane Benefit about my Meyers-Briggs personality profile, the rare borderline ENTP/ENFP.

[Free Resource: Get Control of Your Life and Schedule]

In Is it ADHD or Creative Personality Type?, she writes, “Creative personality type refers to people who thrive on growth, change and novelty, and tend to get bored with anything that is too repetitive or that stays the same for too long. They also:

  • prefer exploring new ways of doing things,
  • take more risks than the average person,
  • challenge the status quo,
  • want to try new things,
  • delight in solving problems,
  • prefer to research and continuously learn new things over implementing routines.”

Doesn’t that sound familiar? Doesn’t it sound a little like the Interest Driven Mind? Or ADHD? The huge number of successful celebrities who are comfortable with a little creative chaos tells you there might just be a connection between the two. I guess it’s whether or not you can stand by your strengths, grow your intelligence, and have a purpose. Without clear goals and a guiding structure, creativity can be cancerous, growing in every direction and taking over every room in the house. It becomes, to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald on the second page of The Great Gatsby, “that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of ‘creative temperament.'” Distractible, Impulsive, and Hyperactive.

Distractibility is a fact of life — there is always a new and interesting idea. Impulsivity is energy — to act on my ideas. And hyperactivity, well, that will help me go the distance. I call these extra voices in my head my muses. By doodling in the margins, I give them something to do so that I can make some forward progress on my best intentions. It’s the power of creativity.

[Free Resource: Make Mindfulness Work for You]

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