7 Steps to Becoming an Artist of ADD

When it comes to managing the challenges of ADD, you could look at it one of two ways.

You could try to “overcome” it, to become as normal as possible. Good luck with that one, my friend.

Or you could try to be better at it. Yes, you could be better at ADD. Medication or not, your ADD does not disappear entirely and furthermore, it will always be with you. So why not get better at living with it?

How can you be better at ADD?

In order to get better or proficient at anything, there is usually a process you go through. That process is not formulaic but learning almost any skills requires that you follow some version of the following steps.

1. You start

Well done, you’ve already completed step one. From what I gather, most painters start painting long before they have any formal tuition. You’re already living ADD, so you’ve got some experience already.

2. Learn new tips and tricks

Read about ADD, talk to other ADDers, visit ADD websites (or blogs!). Talk to your therapist, psychiatrist or coach. Learn what other people have tried, tested and found to be true in managing their challenges. At some point, most artists will learn techniques from other artists. Some ideas will resonate and others won’t, but learning (not perfection) is the point at this step.

3. Experiment with what does and doesn’t work

Take what you’ve learned and try it out. You are in experimenter mode here, so its critically important not to judge the tactic (or your ability in relation to it) too harshly. Adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Post-it notes work for some people but they certainly don’t for me. If someone invented an over-sized electronic post-it with blinking lights and alarm bells – well, that might just work for me. Experiment and see what works for you.

In the Art of ADD, this step does not apply only to experimental techniques for managing symptoms. In looking at the bigger picture, you experiment with life itself. If a normal 9-5 office job is clearly not fitting with your hunger for variety and mobility, then it might be time for a grander experiment.

4. Get to know, intimately, the ins and outs of your craft (ADD)

Matisse, Renoir and Monet were all impressionists but employed different methods in creating their art. They saw different things and expressed their inspiration uniquely.

Your ADD is different from another person’s ADD. Pause and watch yourself, almost as if an outsider looking in. Where does ADD show up in your life? Where do you struggle most? Which areas of life do you excel in? What makes you come alive? You may think you can answer this right now, but I can guarantee that unless you carefully observe your life, you don’t fully know your ADD. You may recognize yourself as being impatient, but when you really analyze it, you see that while there are situations that frustrate you, there are others you feel completely calm in.

5. Practice

Try out the techniques you have selected, remembering that proficiency does not come with one, two or even twenty tries. Artists are never happy with every single stroke of the brush, but eventually the painting comes together. Leonardo Da Vinci attempted his masterpieces several times before he got to the point where he could allow them to be finished. Your life is your art, it will take a lot of practice to get things just the way you want them to be, and even then it is unlikely you will ever deem your art perfect. They say that art is never complete, only deemed “good enough”.

6. Learn from masters, mentors, and muses

Da Vinci apprenticed for Andrea del Verrocchio. Michealangelo studied under Domenico Ghirlandaio and Bertoldo di Giovanni. You can learn a lot from the people in your life who inspire you. They may be famous or unknown to the rest of the world. They may have ADD or not. They simply need to be people who you admire, for whatever reason, or people who live life the way you would like to. Watching truly confident people in action may not unlock your own confidence but it will certainly inspire you to find your own path towards it.

7. Find your unique style…

and embrace it as your own, knowing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the true Art of ADD lies in creating your own masterpiece. Living life in your own artful way is your legacy to the world. It doesn’t matter if its unconventional – its your life, so live it beautifully. Impressionism was scorned in the day for its radical departure from conventional methods. Today, one of Monet’s Water Lilies is worth over 40 million BRITISH POUNDS!


Who is anyone but you to say what your art is worth?

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13 comments on “7 Steps to Becoming an Artist of ADD

  1. Andrea,
    First, thanks for the post on my site. Secondly, I wish I had found your site earlier, but such as it is, I’m still grateful. I didn’t post it on my site, but I was diagnosed with ADD about 18 months ago. I suspected, as did just about anyone who was close to me, that I had it (or it had me :)), but wasn’t willing to take the steps necessary to tackle it. The first and most difficult was admitting it. It only took 40 years.
    Since then, my life has literally been turned upside-down. At one point or another over the past year and a half, I’ve engaged in several of the steps you’ve listed above, but wish I had discovered them sooner.
    Thanks for the info and I’ll be back often.
    Your friend in ADD,
    -Brian (aka The Mighty Renegade)

    1. Hey Brian,
      Wow, it amazing to find I blogger I like only to find out how much more we have in common than I even realized! I can relate to the 40 year denial, mine lasted roughly that long give or take. Since I started taking those first steps, it has been an amazing journey of self-discovery. I’m glad the posts resonate with you, as yours did with me. I will certainly be back to The Mighty Renegade often as well!

  2. We simply have to stop working harder and work smarter. Find the tool that will work for you. It might eventually lose it’s magic. Here is the benefit of this community you are growing here! Eric starts sharing what works and others try it. This will breed more and more collaboration. Love it Andrea, keep it up.

    My latest trick is “chunk and reward” – (not my own creation) Break down the big tasks into smaller bite size portions. Set a time limit for working say 25 min then reward yourself with 5 minutes of something and return. Depending on your abilities set the chunk time for what works for you!

    1. Thanks Todd, I hope that we can all help each other with our experiences and learnings. I like the chuck and reward, have had good success with it myself. I also like `sprinting` for the tasks that don`t require that much mental effort. Like setting the clock for 10 minutes and doing a house tidying blitz like a madwoman. I think it really helps to choose the tool not only according to the task, but also according to the mindset you are in at the time you are engaging in the task.

  3. You must write a book! We could all benefit from such good advice/lessons about life. One’s masterpiece may be nothing more than a poorly drawn cartoon but if it makes you smile, it’s invaluable.

  4. Thanks A – you totally nailed it, I think that the hardest part is teaching the inner artist to let go of total control. I think that’s when life becomes a real masterpiece. I remember reading a book years ago about how novelists tackle the process of writing. One had said that no matter what plot you have in mind, at some point the story takes on a life of its own and the story begins to write itself. So much so, that at some points you cannot believe that your characters say or do the things they do (even though you are writing it!) I wonder what kind of stories our lives would be if we got out of the way a bit and let the story tell itself.

  5. An awesome list of steps for anyone with any kind of struggles in life (isn’t that all of us, in some way or another?) I could certainly learn to not be so harsh and impatient with my “masterpiece”. Even if it isn’t quite what my inner artist envisions just get, it is was it is and what it is meant to be! I can learn to appreciate its’ beauty more. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your mission with all of us– You are an inspiration!

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