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The Illusion Of ADHD Creativity

30 April 2013

From ADHD Man of DistrAction on PsychCentral:

I’m sure you’ve heard that people with ADHD are very creative. It’s nice to think that may be true, and it may be true, but it isn’t yet a fact.

. . . .

Since there are no tests to qualify or quantify creativity, there is no way of testing the creativity of anyone. The only test is if they create

Those of us with ADHD are known for not finishing things. Being creative requires things to be finished, doesn’t it? So how did this rumour get started?

. . . .

Sometimes, I’ll start working on something, a song, a poem, or content for some publication, and I will worry it ’til I can’t find a single thing wrong with it. But then I’ll avoid doing anything like that for a long while, possibly for ever. The thing I did was good, and constituted creativity, I guess, but I’m not doing it again. I’ll do something else. Maybe perseverance is creativity.

. . . .

The thing about those of us with ADHD that I notice, is that they turn their creativity loose on some project, and turn it on full. When that project is finished, they cast around for something else to work on, usually really different. Maybe being unable to tolerate boredom is creativity.

Link to the rest at PsychCentral


7 Comments to “The Illusion Of ADHD Creativity”

  1. “Being creative requires things to be finished, doesn’t it?”
    I think ADHD Man’s take on creativity is different from my own. To me, creativity is a way of thinking about things that allows us see the world in different shapes and colors, and to approach challenges from angles that straight-line thinking doesn’t allow. It imbues us with an urge to make something whose shapes and colors and angles have never before been seen in the world, because WE have never been in it until now. Finishing is essential for the success of creative projects, but I don’t see it as meaning one person is essentially more creative than another, though the person who follows through will have more finished projects to show for it.

  2. “Finishing is essential”


    Have I not read here more than once that you never finish a book? I know from my own muso stuff that songs are never finished in the studio. “What kinda album is this, anyway, Ben Hur?” *

    You can polish and just go on for ever, and it’s never done. I sorta assume it’s the same for writers.

    I’m asking, not being combative.


    *From the album, “Bankrupt,” by Dr Hook and the Medicine Show

    • When I worked on indie movies we never finished a movie, we just had to abandon it and send it out because a screening was booked and we needed the disk space for the next movie.

      Without a deadline we probably would still be editing some of them. The amount of difference a couple of frames can make in a cut is quite amazing.

  3. Combative? Vous? Never happen. You are, occasionally, passionate. It’s only one of the things I love about you.

    The necessity of finishing an act in order to be considered creative was ADHD Man’s notion, not mine. But I do think that many artists of all sorts find it difficult to finish a book, painting, album, etc. Others happily move on to the next thing. I’m somewhere in the middle, me.

  4. When my son was diagnosed with ADHD – incorrectly as it turned out, he has sensory integration disorder – an acquaintance told me that she thought it was a shame modern society had no place in it for hypervigilant individuals. The subtext being: there was nothing wrong with my son, only with society as presently constituted.

    I found this profoundly irritating.

    My son was having difficulty moving through his days happily and smoothly. His upset and tension were spreading to the rest of the family. He missed social cues, so he had a hard time making friends. There was a lot of pain and chaos all round.

    I feel like the “[diagnosis of some kind] = creativity” to be more of that same attempt to deny that there is a very real challenge present. When you live with the challenge day by day, minute by minute, somebody else saying that there is no challenge is…grrrrr!

    • I agree. I have a son with Asperger’s and ADHD (the two commonly go together in children) and “challenge” is putting it lightly. His special needs truly turned our lives upside down and what is possibly the hardest part is trying to explain to our other children why he gets so much special treatment.

      Here’s the thing: humanity = creativity. It’s inherent to our species. I think that the trend observed in people with certain disorders could simply be that all of the institutionalized conformity that is pushed on kids as soon as they get to school doesn’t work on people with certain disorders. Society simply can’t stomp the creativity out of them they way it does with so many poor kids.

  5. “humanity = creativity”

    Yes. This. 1,000%.

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