Hey look! Something shiny! Yes, we have heard a ton of jokes about ADD. I've been known to come up with a few of them myself. For example: how many people with ADD does it take to change a light bulb? SQUIRREL! It's good to have a sense of humor, but it can also be a severe condition. A client once hired me to do a narration on ADD and ADHD and I told her it was right up my alley because I have this condition.
Creative people often struggle with neurological disorders like ADD and ADHD. Don't look at it as a negative. It means you're creative as hell! ADD is a common issue among actors and yes, VOICE actors as well. Some consider ADD a disability, but in reality, it’s a super-ability. People who do not have ADD can regularly focus on one thing at a time, while ADD people can focus on multiple things. It’s not uncommon for a person with ADD to be simultaneously listening to music, playing a game, texting a friend on their cell phone, or instant messaging several more on the computer, all while reading a blog with the television on in the background!
I believe I've had ADD since I was a child. I struggled in school my entire life because it was challenging to focus and things in which I would be interested would always fade in favor of something new and fresh. In the past several years, I have improved my exercise level. Running, hiking, playing basketball and working on the machines in the gym have improved my focus and overall work ethic. As a result, I feel less anxious and more relaxed. Now, don't get me wrong. I still have stressful weeks where I feel like I could pull my hair out but it is so much better than it used to be.
My doctor subscribed me to Adderall once, which didn't work for me. It felt like a perfect caffeine buzz, but all I wanted to do was stare at the screen for 20 minutes. I know it works for some but it didn't for me. I have found that less coffee and more exercise have been my difference maker. It's not a cure for ADD, but it sure helps me manage it a lot better.
People with ADD deal with it in different ways. Some need medication. Some need Yoga. I've compiled a few stories featuring some voice talent friends of mine who have ADD and how they deal with it daily. Especially since many of us in this industry work from home, this presents immediate challenges and distractions for anyone with this condition.
Here are some stories about how a few of my voice talent friends are coping with ADD...
ADD—where do I start? My motto used to be "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done!" Keywords are procrastination and distraction, lack of focus but also hyper-focus! I get hyper-focused on projects on which I'm working and other stuff (especially in the house) gets avoided until I'm finished. If you have ADD traits or tendencies, getting some business training on time-management skills is essential. Lousy time management will cause unnecessary stress and the inability to stick to a schedule and could potentially ruin your business. Working with various coaches to learn about the VO business, I am gradually improving my time-management skills and consequently achieving more extraordinary things. It's very hard to break the habits of a lifetime, but with the right coaching, all will become clear and you will be enlightened!
I'm nowhere near perfect, but I'm getting better and my business is now prospering because I'm learning to work according to a schedule, setting timers and consequently, I’m less stressed! I'm much happier because I can now see the wood for the trees. I could never have done that on my own. People with ADD have to learn and be trained to be more organized. It's worth every penny.
Laura Branch Mireless:
Although I've never been officially diagnosed, I have no doubt I have ADD. It's gotten worse since I had kids, so I call it "Mommy ADD"—she loses brain cells with each birth! I agree with my dear friend Pearl. She has made some excellent points. I guess for me, the most prominent "ah-ha" moment was when I realized that working in a "project" oriented business (such as VO or video production) is where I'm happiest and the most fulfilled. It's those pesky little follow-ups like billing and marketing where I drop the ball. Oh, to have a business coach for that!
I have found that using any kind of visual aid to keep me on track helps. For example, I have a large monthly calendar next to my editing screen, so it's in my left peripheral vision at all times and a daily log sitting on the desk to my right. That way, I have a mental photo of what's coming up or if there's not much written on them, I know I need to work on marketing. Overkill for some but helpful for me.
I also have never officially been diagnosed, but I firmly believe that I developed ADD soon after becoming a regular internet user in 1996. Clearly, it's not just my imagination either, as articles seem to abound on the topic...like this one fresh from today: http://www.sgvtribune.com/opinions/ci_21061328/steve-scauzillo-is-internet-driving-us-crazy
Case in point -- at this very moment, I have 15 browser tabs open, email with no less than five accounts constantly updating, I’m texting my mother on my cell phone, Oprah Super Soul Sunday playing on the DVR in the next room, and Spotify playing music. Bored much? Lately, I've been forcing myself to practice mindfulness meditation exercises for at least 20 minutes, and it's definitely impacting my ability to focus.
I want to thank Pearl Hewitt, Laura Branch Mireles and Mara DuRousseau Junot for the gift of sharing their stories on my blog. I hope by sharing theirs, you'll be able to gain more focus on your own. So just know, if you have these kinds of anxiety disorders, you are NOT ALONE!