Major Artistic Deficit Disorder

Having grown up the child of artists, it naturally followed that those we interacted with and bonded with would lean towards the creative.  And so, throughout this life, I have found myself  surrounded by an abundance of talented friends. I gravitate to them like a bee to sweet and brightly colored flowers, and they seem to gravitate to me. It is as natural, as important, as breathing air.

A richly textured swirl of graphic designers, crafters, painters, illustrators, bakers, chefs, jewelers, beaders, seamstresses, quilters, knitters, every kind of fiber artist.  A kaleidoscope of talented gardeners, musicians, designers, writers, singers, actors, woodworkers, builders, dancers and dreamers. It is a wonderful thing to be touched by so much creativity, both inspiring and awe-inspiring, evoking admiration.  Also intimidating, because sometimes I have to wonder what it is that I can do well…….where is it exactly that I fit in?

Looking back at what has been accomplished and perfected over time, I have discovered that I am not really that good at any one thing at all; the quintessential Jill of All Trades who truly has not mastered a specific skill.

There are so many artistic endeavors I have sampled over the years, never able to settle down to focus on Just One Thing, suffering from a form of ADD that I would describe as Major Artistic Deficit Disorder.  Not denying my share of inherent talent, to a degree…….the “deficit” does not lie in the lack of potential but in the inability to settle into one task.  One of my Extremely Creative Friends tells me that is part of my problem – that I should not be so scattered and spread so thin, that I have to choose something and just concentrate on that, just immerse into that One Thing to bring it to a higher level of skill.  Of course, this makes absolute sense.  But it is something that has been almost impossible to accomplish.

“Back in the Old Days”, those golden days before accepting Total Responsibility, those days when time stretched out endlessly before us, where every day was a new adventure, when we were young and immortal and anything was possible….back then it seemed every day dawned with the potential of another creative adventure.  There was always a drawing in progress, a project to be dyed or painted, a new song to learn, something to sew or re-design or embellish. The parameters of originality were challenged, all the way down to the way we dressed.  There is something so satisfying about immersion into the artistic project – almost to a compulsive degree.  For some people, it is a necessity.  It had always been for me. But it seems somewhere along the way I have veered off the path and am desperately struggling for more of that fresh air.


When did it stop? What happened?  It is not as if there wasn’t potential and interest there. My children’s clothing, when they were younger, was hand-made, embellished and unique.  I quilted.  I put rush seats in chairs and stenciled them, refinished furniture, wrote and illustrated an (unpublished) children’s book, took up photography, developed and printed my own black and white photos.  I painted designs on tee-shirts to sell at craft fairs, painted logos and hippie art on cars and clothing, embroidered pictures on fabric and on denim jeans and jackets, dabbled in batik, painted in water-color and ink wash.  I sold some illustrations to be used as props in made-for-television-movies and designed a logo for a friend’s business, made and sold ethnically inspired beaded jewelry. I sang in a couple of bands.  I tried to learn piano, guitar, mandolin and clarinet, although never really stuck with any of them enough to master.   Over the more recent years I have taken up middle eastern drumming and re-learned to crochet (a little).  Beyond this, I actually have a degree in Visual Arts.

But there has been no centering, no perfecting of a craft, absolutely nothing that is done so well that you would stop and say “She is an illustrator (or a quilter, or a singer, or……….).  I want to know it all.  I know not enough of any of it.

The unfinished applique quilt has been sitting in the box for almost thirty years. I would take it out periodically, look at it, and then could not bear to deal with it. The child it was meant for now has children of her own. The cookbook I compiled just needed to be proofed before being passed on to a friend who had graciously offered to set it up for publication….for over ten years now. The children’s book I wrote, illustrated and did a mock-up dummy for has been sitting in a trunk for twenty years.

More often than not, for some reason strangers will approach me and ask, “Are you An Artist?”  At my very core I want to say “Yes”.  But then the following question, the inevitable “What do you do?” does not correlate, leaving an awkward, uncomfortable pause.   Often I think taking on a full-time job that veered away from artistic inspiration has been the dagger to the heart of my own creative expression.  I tried to bring as much ingenuity into my job as possible, but I know it was not enough.

There are people who have made their art their professions and have always walked that truth.  It seems while I am an “idea person”, I tend to be a catalyst for others and not very much for myself.  The imagination runs wild but the action is static.

There are some of us that have gone down different paths and yearn to return to those roots, that center.  I have wandered off that path, but lately, somehow, I feel I might be heading home.


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14 Responses to Major Artistic Deficit Disorder

  1. annieb523 says:

    You are an Adventurer. You are a Gatherer of Art. You draw it to you – and draw it from us. You give us the push, the idea. You are a First. You start down the path first, you show us the way, and then smile and wave as we continue on, and then you find another path.

    You Cherish Beauty. With the loss of one sense, the other became – more hungry – more grateful. You see the potential beauty in a craft, an art form. You explore it, experience it, taste it. Many of us have a closet full of UFOs – UnFinished Objects. It is the rule rather than the exception. We all took paths of What If? And sometimes it just wasn’t what we thought it would be, or we knew it was going in the right direction but it wasn’t the right project so we started a new one that was better and incorporated what we learned.

    You are the Sum of your Experiences. Everything you try becomes a part of you. You learned something, or took something away from each of these attempts – finished or not.

    Sometimes it is just more fun to eat just Appetizers for dinner. Art is love, Passion, Work, Creativity – if you don’t have the passion all the creativity and work will not make it art. If it is work – and it is no longer fun – why do it? I will quilt until it stops being fun.


  2. cynthia says:

    I feel the same way about myself: ” I want to know it all. I know not enough of any of it.” I also feel scattered, with multiple unfinished projects (yes, some go back 30 years, and more) and countless ideas/inspirations bouncing around in my head, yet can’t seem to accomplish many, if any (ADD). I’d like to say here that you are also a writer, and that’s an art. You’re good at it! Good at expressing, drawing the reader in, and eliciting a sense of identification. I know that I relate!


    • daeja's view says:

      Actually It appears a lot of people might relate, even those Who are working artists. Over the past number of months I have heard and read a number of discourses on the “Imposter Syndrome”, where a talented person feels like they are going to be discovered as a fake or imposter and not “really” whatever it is they do. For me it is getting to the “whatever” part….. I am glad you are enjoying the writing here and identify, thank you!


  3. rachelle says:

    You ARE an idea person and a catalyst. You have inspired me in the past and I’m sure you will continue to in the future. All very valued attributes. Everyone doesn’t have to end up with a finished product in the hand.


    • daeja's view says:

      what do you do?
      I’m a catalyst.
      I don’t think that’s totally cutting it (for me), although I hate labels, there clearly is an identity crisis possibility brewing….and
      We all like having a finished product in hand..
      But thank you


  4. Judy says:

    This journal really hits home; I see myself here. I played the flute, the piano, the guitar, crocheted, was into sewing all my own clothing, got into Music & Art High School on charcoal drawings, etc. Yet here I sit, retired and busy, dabbling in creative pursuits here and there, but not a pro at anything, not known among my friends for any particular creative pursuit. Back in the 70s when I was bartending after college everyone would ask me, “So what are you?” as if I must be an artist of some type just bartending on the side to make a living, when in fact I was clueless as to where I fit in, and was indeed, a bartender and no more.

    I think some of us are just like this; we dabble in a number of creative pursuits, “Jack/Jill of all trades, Master of none.” I have accepted that for myself, and so should you. It does not diminish your creative worth or self-worth.

    It is only natural to start thinking about who you really are, independent of making a living, and where you “fit in.”


    • daeja's view says:

      “So what are you?” I guess a lot of us are in that boat. It’s just when you are surrounded by incredibly creative people, it is a bit daunting.

      Isn’t it interesting how we need to define ourselves. Even where last names came from long ago –
      Miller, Baker, Berg, etc.


  5. indiwind3 says:

    My gut response to this was: there’s nothing wrong with that. When someone asks you what you do, say everything! I remember, though, that Julia Cameron writes about people who are catalysts for other artists actualyy being frustrated and frightened artists in either ‘The Artist’s Way’ or ‘Vein of Gold’ if you want to check those out. Keep creating; it’s a process. 🙂


    • daeja's view says:

      I actually had religiously followed “The Artist’s Way” years ago. Frustrated and frightened artist is probably very close to the truth. Something to think about while continuing to find my way….. “I do everything!”


  6. hissking says:

    I must have the same form of ADD. Scattered and unable to focus. I am learning to embrace it too. start,stop, change ideas, mediums, places, homes, brushes, paints, pencils. The art is in YOU, my dear. YOU are the masterpiece!


    • daeja's view says:

      Yes, the art is in us. But you have to wonder about those prolific and talented people who manage to finish something, or stick to something, or develop their craft, or hone in on a specialty. I so admire that.


      • hissking says:

        I like us. We’re flexible, even though lots of things are unfinished. Not in a rut, I have wasted enough time wishing to be like them. I’m not, I’m not ever going to be. I’m not sure its an admirable quality, I have a sister who is like that, finishes everything she starts. And is always looking for something more. I don’t have to look far to find more, its in my cedar chest waiting.


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