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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Leonardo da Vinci and Ritalin

If Leonardo da Vinci was an American child in the 80s, 90s, or maybe even now, it’s a good chance he would have been diagnosed with ADD: attention deficit disorder. Clinically, that means the person has a problem, that he has trouble concentrating and controlling impulses. To me, it just means his brain is working faster and over a wider spectrum than ‘normal’ folks. The standard ‘remedy’ for this is medication. I don’t believe this lack of focus is a fault, but only a character aspect. And if it’s not broke, don’t (try to) fix it. 

{Note: I’ll probably get lots of flack about this. But opinions are like nose hairs, everyone has at least one. If you don’t agree with me, so be it.}

Leonardo is my hero. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I think of how much this guy did. And no, I don’t think he was, or needed to be, medicated. So what if he couldn’t/wouldn’t focus on whether he wanted to be a painter, mathematician, inventor, sculptor, cartographer (map maker), geologist, musician, engineer, writer… He still accomplished a lot in his short (67 year) lifespan.
Shoot! Sympathize with him?—I identify with him! Do I want to be a gardener, author, photographer, create hundreds of gluten-free recipes, quilt, compose songs, cross-breed roses, invent a fool-proof gopher/slug/deer deterrent, sell tractor parts, design web pages, crochet afghans or sweaters… Nope, I can’t/won’t focus, either.

I felt so strongly about the bad press that ‘over-stimulated’ folks received that—while in author mode—I made sure some of my characters had that same trait.

Here’s an excerpt from Aye, I am a Fairy:

“You know, it may seem like I’m a bit hyper,” she said suddenly. “I mean, look at me; I’ve got at least five different projects going on here. But it’s okay. When I get bored or stumped with one, I just move on to the next one. Mom told me it was because I was ‘highly intelligent.’ She didn’t believe in all that attention deficit disorder stuff. She had the same thing going on when she was in school. She’d finish her work early, get bored and start doodling or daydreaming, and then miss what the teacher had just said. Her mother told those teachers that they weren’t going fast enough for her daughter, and if they wanted to really help her, they would give her something else to do when she was finished with the assignments. So, they let her go to the music room and play the piano. The music teacher showed her the basics. Mom took off from there with just a stack of music books to guide her. Man, she was motivated. She’d rip right through her schoolwork just so she could go do her thing in the music room. Her grades went up and, even though she never did anything with it, she learned how to play piano pretty well. Me, I just drew and doodled until high school. Then, once I started being home-schooled, I dropped the doodling and blasted through everything so I could go to college early, get my degree, and make enough money that I didn’t have to worry about bills.”
Oh, and I created a time traveler named Leonardo da Vinci the elder. Look for him in NAKED IN THE WINTER WIND, the first book in The Fairies Saga series. He’s not the same as his son, my renaissance hero, but quite the character, just the same.

Yup, writing novels doesn’t produce new hardy and unusual roses, nor will it cover my lap with warmth like a quilt or afghan (unless my laptop overheats), nor will it produce fantastic gluten-free brownies, but it does let me implant personable or irritating traits in people whose body size, color, and gender I determine. These folks may lack social security numbers, but they will definitely raise a heart rate, cause a tear, or illicit a chuckle.

And I couldn’t have done any of it if I had been able to focus.

Dani Haviland is author of The Fairies Saga. Time travelers, interacting with 'fictional characters,' bouncing between the 21st century and 1780s North Carolina (and later Australia!).

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