The Artist's Way by Julia CameronI’m reading a book and I’m saying, out loud, “Oh my God!” “Yes!” “Amazing!” And no, it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey that I’m reading. I’m having that orgasmic response to re-reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I mentioned her book in my last post.

There’s lots of inspiration there for a woman who was diagnosed late in life with ADHD. Perhaps you too might find her tips helpful and motivating.

Stopping after a success

Artists who have been stymied for whatever reason often take “creative u-turns,” says Cameron. She says we can feign indifference after a success, undermining our achievement and becoming defeatist.

It wasn’t long after my ADHD diagnosis that I realized that, over decades of being undiagnosed, I’d developed a defeatist attitude no matter how enthusiastically I began. I realized I’d undermined my own dreams by assuming they wouldn’t work out, no matter what I did.

Now, I’m working hard not to downplay or undermine my achievements, but rather to build on them and keep moving forward. It’s an ongoing task, but then again, it took decades to develop a negative habit.

Intensely dislike structure / discipline

I’ve been debating the whole structured life versus unstructured life question since my diagnosis. Once learning that I had a legit reason for lacking structure in my life, the pendulum has swung, and swung back again.

First, I thought, Ok, I have to learn how to have structure in my life. Then, I questioned that wisdom. After all, I’m very attuned to the natural rhythms of my body. If I’m built to prefer an unstructured day, why should I fight my natural inclinations?

I’ve recently begun (again) to feel that I’d rather work with my natural energy flows of rushes of focused productivity followed by times of lull. To manage economically, perhaps I can choose less mentally demanding activities when I’m in my “recharging my batteries” phase after an intense burst of productivity.

Unconventional lifestyle

Cameron also says that creative types are touchy about others shoving us into lifestyles that don’t fit our needs.

“When well-meaning parents and friends push marriage or nine-to-five or anything on us that doesn’t evolve in a way that allows for our art to continue, we will react as if we are fighting for our lives – we are.”

I realize others with ADHD flourish in a 9-5 lifestyle, but I don’t.

Reading Cameron’s description of the needs of an artist helped remind me that it’s ok to want an unconventional life. It’s not just ok; it’s essential to my health and well-being.

I totally resonated with Cameron’s comment that, “To be an artist is to risk admitting that much of what is money, property, and prestige strikes you as just a little silly.”  Does that sound familiar to you? I’ve met many people with ADHD who share much the same sentiment.

Anger management

I was intrigued by the parallel between people with ADHD often having a short fuse, being prone to angry outbursts. Could these be as a result of a frustrated, sublimated artist within? Perhaps:

“If I allow myself to be bullied and cowed by other people’s urges for me to be more normal or more nice,” says Cameron, “I sell myself out.” Hmmm…

“They may like me better, feel more comfortable with my more conventional appearance or behavior, but I will hate myself.”

Strong words, yet her conclusion fascinated me: “hating myself, I may lash out at myself and others.”

Wow. There have been times in my pre-diagnosis life when I was too busy to write or play music (my two biggest artistic pursuits) and I distinctly felt increasingly frustrated, which often led to irritability. I could be on a hair trigger, lashing out when all I really needed was to write or make music.

Success is only temporary

People with ADHD tend to be restless. A lot of us are looking for new challenges, new accomplishments, new adventures.

So too must the artist continue to move on. Cameron calls it a restlessness that happens after success, a dissatisfaction sets in and there’s a hunger for what we’re going to do next.  Sound familiar?

So here’s to letting our inner artist out to the benefit of our true selves, to our fellow human beings, and to honor the most accomplished creator of all – The Great Creator.

Go forth and create, everyone!


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    Last reviewed: 10 Aug 2012

APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2012). Inspiration for Art and ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2014, from


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