Why having ADHD makes me perfect to be a producer
As a child, Lilly Alter, Creative Producer at Creature London, was sometimes cheeky, generally chatty and occasionally labelled disorganised. Far from those traits hampering her role as 'organiser-in-chief', they have helped make her a successful producer and, after recently being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, she examines how it has impacted her career and what companies can do to be more inclusive to those with neuro-divergent conditions.
When you hear about ADHD, it conjures up a particular idea. A particular kind of person. And a particular kind of behaviour.
Most likely, the stereotype of a naughty school kid who’s distracting the class. Maybe even the more cynical among you have doubted the condition exists at all. Well, what do you imagine when you think of an adult with ADHD? I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t thought of that before. If you have, you likely picture a grown-up version of the kid. Disorganised. Scatty. Distracted.
Here I am. [A] producer and, unashamedly, someone with ADHD. Surprise!
What you probably don’t conjure up is a producer. That’s right. The quintessentially reliable and focused organiser-in-chief. But, here I am; Lilly Alter, producer and, unashamedly, someone with ADHD. Surprise!
Above: The cliche might be that people with ADHD are "chaotic' and disorganised", but the truth can be very different.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always leaving every cupboard open, impulsively getting tattoos, intending to send 'one quick voice note' that ends up being a 12-minute podcast, kitting myself out for a new hobby and then immediately losing interest, and unintentionally zoning out of long meetings. Sure, some stereotypes are based on truth, but what the stereotypes don’t say is that I can be doing all the above in-between juggling 101 tasks on my to-do list.
Back in my school days, I fulfilled other stereotypes, from teachers saying I needed to stop being so chatty (even if they did enjoy my 'cheekiness'), to always struggling with revision, inevitably ending up doing anxious, last-minute cramming (sorry, and thank you so much, mum!), but back then I hadn't yet seen the full, more positive, picture. Things did improve a little when I was diagnosed with dyslexia, but ADHD wasn’t mentioned yet (we now know that almost 50% of children with a learning difficulty tend to have other neuro-divergent conditions like ADHD) and this was probably because ADHD displays differently in girls. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed as children because they exhibit the hyperactive characteristics you’d expect.
Some stereotypes are based on truth, but what the stereotypes don’t say is that I can be doing all the above in-between juggling 101 tasks on my to-do list.
Somehow, despite doing badly in my A-Levels I got into uni. Unsurprisingly, I absolutely despised it. It was just more of the same, and I had an overwhelming feeling that I was done with the theory of doing things and just wanted to try and do them. For many years before my ADHD diagnosis, people assumed this was all down to my personality being 'chaotic' and 'disorganised'. Even I believed that. Everything changed, however, through a series of happenstances (it's a long story. We’ll chat over a spicy margarita) that eventually led me to taking a role as a TV producer in an ad agency. That was where I really felt like I’d found my people. I was in my element.
Above: ADHD can make neuro-typical people's heads explode, but can be a superpower for those diagnosed with it.
The role was a perfect match for my still-yet-to-be-diagnosed ADHD. 'Scattiness' meant I could multi-task; I could simultaneously be on a Zoom call and a phone call, while pointing to where the courier should drop a parcel, and all without batting an eyelash. 'Zoning out' meant I could cut through the bullshit and get to the point, actioning what needed to be done in order of priority. My aforementioned, 'cheekiness' meant I had the personality and sense of humour to navigate through some tricky situations. I look back on the idea that I was 'disorganised' and laugh. I was just trying to be 'organised' in the way that suited neuro-typical people, and hadn’t yet found my way of doing things.
Safe to say, I have now. That superpower makes my friends' heads explode. Not necessarily because it’s better, but because it’s different to how we’ve been told to do, well, everything in life… and yet it still works!
If you’re reading this, curious about how you could make your workplace more neuro-divergent inclusive, begin with simple things like providing quiet breakout spaces for people to work in, and ensuring every meeting ends with clear action points. Better yet, consider shorter meetings in general (not everyone finds an hour-long discussion productive!). The ADDitude website is a great resource, their workshops and articles are so helpful.
[My] 'scattiness' meant I could multi-task. 'Zoning out' meant I could cut through the bullshit and get to the point [and] my aforementioned, 'cheekiness' meant I had the personality and sense of humour to navigate through some tricky situations.
Anyway, back to me, I was finally diagnosed in lockdown. Everything just made sense. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to have those four letters explain what had been going on - for better, and for worse - all this time. Since then, I’ve been able to properly consider what my coping strategies are, like using my ADHD playlist to concentrate and just be comfortable in myself that nothing is 'wrong' with how I do things, it really is just different. My way of doing things has led to me doing everything from big budget, 360 global campaigns, to charity short films… and all sorts in between.
So, that’s my story. Statistically, there must be a whole lot more like mine out there in this industry... which I hope people will share, so we can hear about them. And, one final thing, in true-ADHD-multi-tasking fashion… this article also acts as my neuro-divergent coming out to my dad.
See, told you I was efficient!