ADHD and appreciating art

So a week back I finished reading my third fiction book in four months – “the Rosie project”, a book about a professor of genetics who has Asperger’s syndrome and his effort to find a wife. I got this recommendation via Twitter and procured the kindle sample, and having really liked it went on to read and like the book.

This is not a book review. Essentially in this post I try to analyse why I don’t really read too much fiction. About why in the last ten years I read not more than two or three books of fiction before finally starting on and finishing Neal Stephenson’s cryptonomicon. And then read the same authors 3000 page eight part baroque cycle.

So I’m not a great fan of movies. There are many movies which look interesting thanks to which I DVR them and start watching them but am just unable to sustain interest in them thanks which I end up not watching them. And these movies end up unwatched.

On the other hand there at movies that generate such deep interest that I can’t take my eyes off them and I finish seeing them in one sitting. Thinking  about them these movies have really taut plots, without any fluff, and this allows me to sustain my interest and watch them.

Three years back I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This so-called disorder means that it’s really hard for me to hold my interest on anything that I’m doing. That it means that I’m perennially distracted. That I’m not able to be in the present and am always daydreaming. Because of which I under perform and am occasionally not able to function etc.

Now thinking about it, thanks to my ADHD I’m a great judge of movies and books and lectures and any other media that need to hold your attention to succeed. Because I’m forever distracted it’s very difficult to hold my interest in anything. So my interest can be held iff the “plot” (this applies to movies books articles lectures and all such) is tight and without too much extra fittings. When the plot is not taut there is a higher chance that I get distracted, and since I have ADHD I stop making an effort to concentrate and focus and capture essence and it’s all lost.

Its interesting to note that movies that I like instinctively are those that are generally highly rated. The converse is also true – movies that fail  to hold my attention by not having a taut enough plot are those that are generally not highly rated. Of course you could argue that I’m a sucker for public approval but the correlation is remarkable.

So my ADHD means that I’m unable to enjoy a movie or a book or a lecture or an article unless it’s really well written/ Spoken/performed. In that sense my lack of tolerance for something that’s not up to par – by having redundancies and inanities and thus having too many “extra fittings” – means that I’m unable to consume any content that is even marginally under par. Or that I have very high standards for grabbing my attention towards anything which means that I consume little but whatever i consume is of high quality!

So the reason I gave up on fiction itself is a function of reading a lot of bad fiction. Stuff that was badly written but what I forced myself to read because of the “I’ve started so I’ve finished” principle. And the trouble it’s caused my has meant that I’ve decided not to read fiction at all!

In terms of non fiction I’ve been much more discerning in the first place in terms of stuff I’ve started reading. And the generous peppering of “fundaes” in most non fiction books means that my interest has been sustained and I’ve managed to read a fair bit!

I’ve written this blog post sitting at a lecture written by a rather popular academic. It’s a promising lecture but the first few minutes were not crisp or competing enough – which means that my interest hasn’t been sustained and so I’ve switched off!

The lecturer’s reputation precedes him so my opinion may not match popular opinion about the lecture ( expressed publicly) this time. But I believe that my ADHD has made be a great judge of whether something has been communicated well!

6 thoughts on “ADHD and appreciating art”

  1. I feel you captured something that applies to me. I never watch movies by myself, keep shuffling between books etc.
    I never thought of it as being due to the underlying movie or book not being good enough. Case in point – tried and failed to get beyond the first half an hour of 2001 A Space Odyssey for many years until I watched a rerun in the theatre sometime back.
    My current strategy for movies is to find someone to watch it with or head to the theaters. Haven’t yet developed one for books.

    I’m curious about adhd – do you have any strategies for dealing with it and getting stuff done? I never got myself checked, but pretty sure I have at least a mild version.

    1. Basic strategy for dealing with ADHD is to structure wokr etc. in a way that it doesn’t affect me too much! Applies to nature of work, environment, etc.

      And a lot of supposedly spectacular books and movies are very slow, and I’m just not able to get through them!

    1. This is a great article! Thanks for sharing. And my “perceived” ADHD has dropped significantly after I went freelance – which means I have more control over my work, time, etc. and can choose more stimulating stuff to do

    2. This is a great article!

      Isn’t it? 🙂 Ever since I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, I have always wondered if these mental ‘illnesses’ are due to the neuro-plasticity of our brains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity). Our brain changes in response to the environment and like everything in this world, thats not a ‘perfect’ process and hence mental illnesses. If neuro-plasticity sounds interesting, you might want to read this non-fiction book 🙂

      http://www.amazon.com/Brain-That-Changes-Itself-Frontiers/dp/0143113100/

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