Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Adrift

So... I haven't written anything over here for a while. I wish I could say that it's because I've been busy, but the shameful truth is that I just haven't been very productive of late. I've mentioned before that a few months ago I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes it difficult to remain focused on specific tasks - like writing, for instance - and although I've been taking medication for it, it hasn't proven very effective.

After a remarkably productive January, I seem to have backslid, and have found it very difficult - and sometimes impossible - to gather my wits and concentrate on any prolonged activity. I can't even watch a 90-minute movie in a single sitting. I've managed to write some short reviews for my DVD site and made a little headway on a comic book script, but that's about it, and I'm agonizing over it. It's especially frustrating because now that I know why my mind "drifts," I feel like I ought to be able to correct the behavior by sheer force of will. But, being as it has a physiological, not psychological, cause, it just doesn't work that way. I'm picking up a new prescription tomorrow for a different type of drug. Hopefully, that one will work better.

I am a writer. I am compelled to write - or at least, I have to create stories. And my mind races (again, part of the condition) with countless ideas, plots, characters, scenes, snatches of dialogue. I flatter myself that I also have earned some small skill as a wordsmith, a fair understanding of story structure, and perhaps possess a smidgen of talent as well, if you believe in such a thing. But, the physical act of sitting down at a keyboard and remaining focused long enough to get all those ideas, characters and stories written down in ink - or rather, pixels - is a genuine struggle for me. I so envy and admire those for whom the words flow like water from a tap; for me, it's like wringing water from a sponge. At first, there's a brief cascade, but soon it's nothing but drops, and then, far too quickly, the sponge is wrung dry.

A lot of people I talk to don't understand that. I'm quite certain that they believe that I'm just not trying hard enough, and/or making excuses. I used to think that, too. I used to believe that I was lazy, because that's what all my teachers told me back in school. But now I know that isn't necessarily the case. If anything, I work a lot harder to accomplish much less... and that is insanely discouraging.

Monday night, in fact, I was so discouraged that I quit. Writing. Comics. Everything. And I fucking meant it. I was done banging my head against the wall, trying to make something of a career out of my stupid damned stories and characters that nobody wants to pay me anything for. It's too damned hard, and apparently I'm not good enough anyway, so fuck it.

I quit.

For about an hour.

Then I came back in here, booted up my computer, opened MS Word, slammed down a Red Bull (for those with ADD, stimulants can have a calming effect and can aid concentration - friggin' screwed-up brain chemicals) and stared at the damned screen for another three hours and manged to squeeze about a page and a half of script out of my dusty, dried-up sponge of a brain.

This post is about the longest thing I've written in one sitting in nearly two months. After I click on PUBLISH POST, I'm going to go find something caffeinated, consume it, and come back here to once again try and finish the overdue comic book script I've been struggling with.

Wish me luck.

8 comments:

NoelCT said...

I'm with you, man. I was diagnosed at age 7 and took Ritalin until I was 21. You've just perfectly put in words what I keep struggling to explain to people.

If I may make a suggestion, I find it's easy to map out a schedule for things.

1) Half hour of tv.
2) Write a thousand words.
3) Do the dishes.
4) Read a chapter of a book.
5) Take out trash.
6) Write another thousand words.

Something like that, with short snippets arranged in a way that calmly jumps you around to different things to keep the boredom away. Set and maintain the order, but keep it just loose enough that it doesn't completely F things up should something arise.

And watch the stimulants. It wasn't until I completely cut out sugar and caffeine that things settled. I'm now a nice steady line instead of spikes and crashes. And, no, you don't need it to get you up in the morning. That's called withdrawal.

Kevin Findley said...

I can feel for you Chris. Your description is a typical day for my 15 year old son. Keeping a tight schedule is rough, but it pays off for him.

As far as stimulants go, we found that extra strong coffee poured over ice and a little milk to cut the flavor works great.

Keep working, I need more regular Kolchak fixes!

Christopher Mills said...

I wish I had been diagnosed and treated for this when I was a kid.

Instead, I have to cope with it now at age 45, and try to reconcile all those years that I struggled so hard to accomplish any and everything, never knowing that the cause was something I had no control over.

My doctor has suggested that my so-called "caffeine addiction" my whole life was actually a sort of unconscious self-medication. I didn't know why, but I knew that if I kept the caffeine coming, I was able to stay somewhat focused and get things done, even if I was never anywhere near as productive as I should have been.

I always wondered why I didn't get jittery or could have a Pepsi right before bed, when everyone else I knew couldn't have coffee after lunchtime....

If my nephew hadn't been diagnosed with ADD, and my sister hadn't made the comment, "He has the same problems you always used to have," It never would have occurred to me to discuss the subject with my doctor.

Adult ADD is still not very widely known or understood. A lot of doctors assumed that ADD kids grew out of it after adolescence until recent studies proved that it wasn't always the case.

For me, even worse than the symptoms is knowing that for forty years I've been thought of as a lazy underachiever who just didn't apply himself - and even came to believe it myself - and it was all a medical disorder that I couldn't control.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've had about the least productive past few weeks of my entire adult life. I'm going to get depressed about it pretty soon.

John Platt said...

You'll make it, but only if you stop looking back with anger/resentment/sadness at what could have been. It's a new day. A new life. A new chance.

Yes, there will always be some resentment for the past, but don't let it get in the way of your future.

Good luck, buddy.

El Vox said...

Sounds like a drag, but I can relate to it at times. Most of the time I feel I'm ok, but there are times I don't feel like doing anything (can't concentrate): watch a movie, read, get focused, or whatever, I've always chalked it up to ennui. At either rate, it would be bad to have that all the time. I guess the best thing to do is when you do feel productive take advantage of it, and don't worry about when you are not.

Mr. Roper said...

I know completely how you feel, sir. I myself was on the Ritalin by about age 6 or so...for a couple years. Of course, back then in the 70s there was no ADD/ADHD I was just "Hyperactive". When I got to be old enough, the caffeine addiction came and at 41 I am still having problems with it. I always heard I would grow out of it too...heh, well. No.
Good luck with the writing, keep at it even when you feel the worst...don't give up.

Martin Powell said...

I have a very close friend who was diagnosed with ADD when she was in her teens. It caused the expected problems in her life you might expect. However, today she is one of the most tireless and productive people I've ever known. Her energy and creativity are often so boundless that I'm in awe of her. So, there is much to hope for, Chris, now that you know what you know. Don't let it beat you. That would be a damn shame not only for yourself, but for all the rest of us who enjoy your work as much as I do.

MP