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The Illusion Of ADHD Creativity

I can't draw very well ...
I can’t draw very well …

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.

A fact is something that current tests show to have a high probability of truth. At one time it was a fact that the sum orbited the earth once a day. Now we know that the earth orbits the sun once a year. It looks like the sun is going around us because earth is actually spinning itself around once a day. That gives us a view of space towards the sun and then a view of space away from the sun.

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?

Perhaps it’s not quantity, but quality that fuels this idea

I create songs. Some of them I like. I even catch myself humming my own music sometimes. It’s actually quite disconcerting to have a tune playing in my head and be trying to “place” it, figure out where it came from, only to realize I wrote it, I’ve given myself an ear-worm. So maybe quality is creativity.

But I’d be less than honest with you if I told you that every song I write is a winner. I’ve written some pretty bad stuff in my time.

“If I had a nickle
For every dollar
That I’ve ever made,
I bet I’d have spent
About five percent
More than I’ve already paid.”

Not exactly chart topper material ….

Maybe it’s that perseverance thing

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.

In reality, many of my friends and connections are, in my opinion, very creative. And of those creative people in my community, many of them have ADHD.

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.

Maybe if we consider where creativity comes from

Is creativity a learned behaviour or an innate quality? Is there a certain amount of creativity in each of us? I don’t know. I know that it must be nurtured if it’s going to mature. I was not encouraged consistently to be creative. It’s taken me this long to get to a place where I believe my writing is okay. Sometimes I’ll turn a phrase that I consider to be very well written. But I don’t often think of myself as creative when writing prose. And I can’t draw, can’t paint, my “art” skills are bad. My artist’s eye is good, but I cannot make my hands make any medium move in a pleasing way. As a result, I believe myself to be a reasonably good amateur photographer. But is that creative?

I’ve been playing devil’s advocate here today. I do believe that many if not most of us with ADHD are very creative. I see not only their creativity and their creations, I see the reactions of others to their creations. There is no proof of our collective creativity, but I have faith.

And creativity gives us a sense of achievement, a much needed boost to our self esteem. So fact or fantasy, truth or rumour, I’m going to use creativity to my advantage. I’m taking every opportunity I can to be a creative individual, to grow my appreciation of myself.


The Illusion Of ADHD Creativity

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). The Illusion Of ADHD Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 28 Apr 2013
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