ADD, Hyper-focusing, and Art
I had promised in my last post that I would talk about the depression that goes hand in hand with ADD, but I changed my mind. The subject was….well….too depressing. So, I’ll just move this discussion along to the hyper-focusing aspect of attention deficit disorder and how that relates to art. Most people are aware of the easy distractibility of those who suffer from ADD, but many aren’t aware that hyper-focusing is also a common trait of ADDers.
Most people with ADD have a unique ability to hyper-focus on activities that interest them. When an ADD person isn’t hyper-focused they are aware at some level of everything that goes on around them and everything distracts them. In contrast, when hyper-focused, nothing else in the world exists. The brain refuses to let anything enter the mind other than what’s in front of the nose.
Hyper-focusing, though annoying to others who can’t get through to you can be a distinct advantage when creating art. For instance, if I’m painting a portrait, and I perceive that one eye isn’t quite right, I will go into hyper-focus mode. At that point nothing exists but the eye that I am working on. I become fascinated with the minute details. Every single eyelash will frustrate me and refuse to let me go until I’ve reached the highest level of perfection of which I am capable.
Such a situation can be very frustrating to me as an artist, but for the end recipient of the portrait, it’s a great advantage. My clients always get my absolute best even though it would often be advantageous to me to just let something go and move on. It’s not that I’m so noble that I set high standards for myself. It’s completely involuntary. My mind simply won’t let it go until I’m done, unless I force myself to move on to something else.
Many times, I have to shake my head to pull myself out of hyper-focus mode and then cover my easel so that I can walk away from a painting and force myself to do other necessary activities, like eating or sleeping. It’s not unusual for me to go without food most of the day because I’m simply too hyper-focused to realize that I’m hungry. My sleeping pattern is no pattern at all. I sleep when my paintings are done, or when I am exhausted enough to pull myself away from them.
I often wonder how many famous artists have been ADD sufferers. Just as Van Gogh suffered from schizophrenia, many other famous artists were known to have had volatile tempers, depression, and other symptoms of ADD. Hmmmm…., I think I might just embrace my ADD. Why fight it? It may make me famous someday.
I’d love to hear the thoughts of other artists on this subject. How many of you feel that you might have undiagnosed ADD? Are you temperamental? Do you hyper-focus and lose track of time often? Do you often get annoyed with others when they interrupt your train of thought? Are you disorganized and considered lazy? Please comment on this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.