Friday, March 09, 2007

Being Adopted & Achieving Long Term Goals

Normally, I don't talk about non-adoption personal stuff in this blog. This probably makes me come off as humorless, negative and no doubt, really intense.

There's one challenge I continue to face and I'm wondering, can it too be linked to adoption?

Once upon a time, I was a good news producer. Then I was a fairly decent radio producer. Okay, high strung but that's a prerequisite for those sorts of jobs.

Once, I threw an old typewriter at a reporter because he begged for extra time and the lead in my newscast, then bagged me by coming up with a one-minute lame ass excuse for a story just before airtime. After the show, I chased him around the newsroom and we had a screaming match. I thought I was going to get fired. Instead, the news director slapped me on the back and said, "Thank God. I thought you'd never grow some balls."

Throw a deadline and a bunch of curve balls and I'll make it. You can count on me. Nina does deadlines.

Okay, so why can't I finish writing a novel? My lifelong dream? My ultimate goal?

My computer is litered with evidence of my failure to complete:

a) Ten decent chapters of a young adult novel set in the near future after an environmental disaster;

b) Twelve chapters of a novel about a successful Latina professional forced to move back to L.A. where she must deal with her difficult family while trying to save her company by finding Hispanic business clients when she can't speak Spanish;

c) An entire draft of 250 pages of a young adult horror novel featuring a murderous mother ghost and, yes, spontaneous combustion; (okay, go ahead, laugh-but I've always been obsessed by spontaneous combustion since I was a kid);

d) Other false starts too numerous to mention.

SO WHAT THE HELL???

Why do I lose steam? Why did I abandon the 250 page draft? Why didn't I rewrite the damn thing? All these efforts were made before I admitted adoption was a big deal, before therapy and long before reunion.

Recently, I heard a radio interview in which a novelist was asked why she waited until her forties to begin writing and she said that whatever crisis she had faced freed her to write.
Mmm.

Then, while rereading Betty Jean Lifton's, Lost & Found: The Adoption Experience, I came across this quote by adoptive father and psychologist William Reynolds:

"The adoptee is inclined to be a rather shy and personally wary individual who is ill at ease in dealing with others. Impulsive in decision making, whose self-image tends to be remote and untrusting, who has real difficulty persisting at tasks without immediate rewards, and whose tolerance for frustration and delay is minimal."

Umph. Seen in that light, it's no wonder I gravitated toward news production. The rewards are immediate. You roll in to work, spend the next eight hours assemblying a newscast, then you put on a show and you sit in the control room and have the satisfaction of watching your product flash on the screens before you.

Writing a novel requires self-motivation and persistence. The reward is unsure. Publication is a hope and dream. There are many frustrations and delays. Umph again. Writing also requires self-esteem. Belief that you have something interesting to say in a fresh way.

Okay, I don't want to make this post too long and I'll continue it, but any thoughts on the link between creativity, the difficulty of achieving long term goals and being adopted? I've started yet another draft of a novel, but this time, it's about adoption and I'm trying a more structured approach: character analysis, plot outline, theme list, etc. and this I really want to finish.

34 Comments:

Blogger Joy said...

We should join a writing group.

I like to employ the pressure of the group tatic.

I don't know about the other part.

I think for a long time I didn't feel I deserved anything, I had so internalized the message, that as an adoptee, I didn't *really* deserve to be alive, and then I didn't deserve parents and didn't deserve material items.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

We should join a writing group.

I like to employ the pressure of the group tatic.

I don't know about the other part.

I think for a long time I didn't feel I deserved anything, I had so internalized the message, that as an adoptee, I didn't *really* deserve to be alive, and then I didn't deserve parents and didn't deserve material items.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Joy,

Have always been on the fence about writing groups. Joining one means less time for writing, but it may be the external pressure that is needed to get it done!

11:36 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Oops, Joy, left this out: The not feeling worthy or like one does feel like you to deserve to exist is something I've had a hard time admitting and understanding. Maybe because it's scary. But yeah, I suspect this probably contributes to my writing dilemma...that I'm not worthy enough to write something let alone something good. I always think what other's have to say is much more important. Wow. Thank you for pointing this out.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Ok, not saying that you have this or anything...but from several different sources, I have heard that adoptees and birth parents have a higher incidence of ADD and ADHD. (Approx. 10% higher than the rest of the population)

Adoption does not cause ADD, but people who have unmedicated, untreated ADD are more likely to forget to take Birth control, impulsively have sex, drink, etc. and also have problems holding jobs, parenting etc.

Adders are also creative, intense, passionate and intelligent, but may not be able to finish projects, so people may not ever find out what they can do.

This can lead to frustration, self-blame and depression.

And it's genetic...but there are wide variations in severity. Many people have just a few mild symptoms. Anyway, if you follow the typical story of a birth mother or an adoptee from the closed era, some people fit the criteria well, others not.

Just a thought...have you ever heard anything about this? I was pretty intrigued with it!

2:27 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Aurelia,

I have heard this but never entertained it as a possibility for myself. Will have to read more about this. Actually, I can sit and write for hours, with great focus, but do not finish the project. Having been around some people with ADD, I've noticed their inability to focus for short periods. Mmmm.

3:17 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Crisis creates opportunities for changes in many ways, especially in relationships. When you experienced a crisis with your co-worker, you went into a "fight" mode. Crisis usually leads to either a "flight", "fight" or "freeze" mode. For adoptees, I think they enter into a "freeze" mode when they discover the secrets and then can't talk about them....it is a helpless, hopeless time. However, as they become adults that response can change.

I am thinking that as a result of finding and meeting your mom, that energy can now be channeled into some creative writing like many adoptees do. I know Mia and Julie have channeled much of their creativity into the arts (painting) and I am sure some have gone heavy into music. Others, like Suz, channel it into helping others who are in a similar situation. These avenues of expression are healthy ones as compared to going into a "fetal" position and staying there. I do think that as one progresses through the grieving process the energy drain can be very demanding. With some closure, that energy can be captured and used for other purposes.

Many have difficulty achieving long-term goals. In your case Nina, what prompts you to finish a project has been deadlines. Journalists often get a "rush" of creativity when they know they have a deadline. I do some of my best grant writing 24 hours before it is due. Some people find that crazy, yet ask them if they ever crammed for a college exam.

I think you respond to deadlines. I don't know how well you respond to self-imposed ones or if most of them are externally imposed. Let us know if we can help you out :)

3:25 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

no we will do it on line Nina. And so then it won't be so hard.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Nina,

The paradox of ADD is that if the subject is interesting enough, I can hyperfocus on it, to the exclusion of all else. Like when I start researching legislation, I can read for hours and hours, if I want to.

But finishing, completion, organizing it into a proper written document? Ehhh, my Waterloo.

Again, just an idea...many people have tiny tendencies towards this. The question is the degree of the tendency. And only you can answer that for yourself.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

LEROY, Thank you for such hopeful and insightful thoughts! I'm desperately hoping that the crisis of reunion - and it IS just that - will allow me to release some of that pent up grief and anger and confusion and, as you say, channel it into more creative endeavors. I soooo love that idea!

JOY...OHHH! DUHHH! That's cool. Maybe something like a password protected Wordpress thingy for that purpose...with deadlines for each chapter (or essay or whatever chunk 'o writing). Vewy Cwever, Joy!


AURELIA, Sorry, I didn't get that YOU have ADD and could speak personally to this topic. Mmmm. Maybe I am. Or maybe I am a bit? I'll have to ask my husband what he thinks. I do seem to have a big issue with finishing household tasks. I've never had anyone who's been around me make any comments or observations. Would they necessarily? How did you figure it out if you don't mind me asking.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Well, I was never diagnosed until I was an adult. I struggled in school, because although I could do the work, I never got assignments done. Like many girls, I had the daydreamer type of ADD, and therefore did not cause trouble or attract attention. Boys are more likely to get diagnosed because of discipline issues.

Anyway, years ago, I saw an episode of ER showing a character, Lucy Knight, having Adult ADD symptoms off ritalin, then going back on and it was ME on the screen. (Wikipedia has a reference to it, you can rent the episode on DVD I think.)

I asked my Dr. for a referral, got an assessment, and started meds. It was life-changing, absolutely shocking. I was happy, but I also grieved all the lost opportunities of the past. There are so many things I wish I could change, but can't. I'm not saying everyone should take the meds, but all kids should get assessments for LD & ADD, and be offered the chance for some kind of treatment.

Additude magazine has some more online info about all this and other LDs.

And again, not saying you have anything, just saying that it is an interesting connection that exists between ADD and adoption.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Aurelia, Thank you for sharing your backstory. I'll have to rent ER or I'll try to Tivo that rerun so I can what adult ADD looks like. Good for you that you took charge of your own health like that because many people would, even after the light bulb goes off, remain in denial. It's also interesting to hear this perspective from an adult, about the effectiveness of the meds. I can see where you WOULD grieve for what could have been. It IS sad.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Nina, You just explained so much to me. "has real difficulty persisting at tasks without immediate rewards, and whose tolerance for frustration and delay is minimal." That is so me it's not even funny. I have started and given up so many hobbies that don't have instant results. Cooking seems to work well for me unless it's in a crock pot. Even that drives me nuts. Thank you for sharing your insight. Good luck finishing your novel. :) Rebecca

11:07 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

REBECCA, Hopefully, if we can see the pattern - identify our behaviors - then we can figure out if it works for us or not. I asked my husband if he thought I had ADD and he kinda laughed and said that HE probably does but it's HELPED in his career. Which is an interesting way to look at it. Anyway, the elusive answer is WHY do some of us adoptees have difficulty persisting at tasks without immediate rewards. WHY WHY??? Actually, I'm contemplating paying for a phone consultation with Betty Jean Lifton to ask this question which is really bugging me!

5:02 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

dont feel bad Nina. I started a novel in 2004, and i'm only at about page 50. It's relatively common for writers to take a long time on their projects. I dont know if its related to adoption per say, i think it's relative to reaching inside, getting in touch with your creativity and emotions and having the fortitude to get it on paper.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

I think you should change your novel to be about adoptive parents sponatneously combusting when their adoptee searches.


Have you ever heard Art Bell?

6:19 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Another question to answer Nina is: Do adoptees have anymore difficulty persisting at tasks without immediate rewards than the general population? If not, then it may just be a common phenomena. If so, how significant is the difference? Those are questions that may or may not have answers but ones I would want to know. If you call Jean Lifton, it might be interesting to ask :)

6:51 PM  
Blogger Possum said...

Right there with you on the 'not finishing tasks' fence!!!
Although I have been able to write the most amazing essay at the very last minute - I'm one for 'ultimate procrastination' also!!! (should be a sport really - with a name like that!!) I read them months later - and say - "where the hell did that come from" !!!
It's a bugger - and I know it drives my husband nuts!!! (especially with the dining table always being covered with the 'latest' project - which hasn't been worked on for the last 4 weeks........)
Let us know your research outcomes Nina - will be waiting for some miracle answers!!!
Hugs, Poss. xxx

9:38 PM  
Blogger elizabeth said...

Nina I set my sights pretty low in terms of long term goals. Sounds pathetic, but all I really wanted to do was survive. I guess I was that damaged.

I wish you all the best with your writing, it sounds like you have great talent!

10:26 PM  
Anonymous mia said...

I think we should take your twenty (or so) chapters and my twenty (or so) chapters and put them together for one completed book!!! My subject matter is more in line with your latest concepts but I would be all for throwing in some spontaneous combustion to shake things up! I loved Joy's idea.

For me the challenge is TIME. Finding the uninterrupted time to write. I am however fully aware this is just an excuse. I know if I really wanted to I would find the time. I have tons of unfinished art projects (paintings, sculptures, numerous started novels) laying about. We should give this failure to complete things serious thought because it's a character trait I would love to eliminate.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

JOY, You crack me up! Actually that's a pivotal scene except the a-mother doesn't literally spontaneously combust but does melt-down...sorta like my a-mother did when I was a teenager and I asked about "that woman," plus, if you add what my narcissistic cousin did to HER daughter when her daughter followed my footsteps to college. Very violent. I mean, why WASTE all those wonderful autobiographical moments, right? Also, sometimes, real life is FAR stranger than fiction.

POSSUM..We have the SAME dining room table, I swear! And I drive my husband nuts, too! I ripped off the fabric from a funky room divider that acts as our headboard and have yet to replace the fabric. That was a year ago. I'm sending an email this week to Lifton and promise to let you know her explanation/response ASAP.

Elizabeth, You've had a VERY tough life without ANY support or nuturance so it's no wonder that survival is the order of the day. I think being a teacher, a good one like you sound to be, is a real calling and public service that takes up soooo much more time than people think. I know some teachers and see how hard they have to work, in the evenings, weekends...all that planning. That in itself is a long term goal.

MIA...I'm finding this whole topic fascinating. I know non-adoptees can have this problem, too, but is it something that poses a special challenge for us, as you say, because of some character trait? I swear, Lifton was right when she said it's like we adoptees are a different species. And yeah, maybe we should just morph our writing projects and, whenever anything doesn't make sense or the plot bogs down, we can make somebody go up in flames. Cool!

Do you like British mystery writer P.D. James? She used to get up at the crack of dawn and write several hours before putting in a full days work in the government. Also, the first time author who wrote "The Historian" made herself write at least a half hour a day, no matter what. It's an 800 page book. I keep reminding myself of their discipline. I think you're a wonderful artist and at least you've finished some stuff!

4:07 PM  
Anonymous mia said...

I haven't read P.D. James but I have Julia Camerons book and morning pages are on my list of things to do.(I did them for a while then stopped...big surprise! lol) I keep thinking if I am more disciplined about that I will be disciplined about completion of my "real" projects. ???

10:25 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

This is obviously a common problem among us - me included (I'm tempted to say "me especially"). I think you could add this the the list of character traits.

I'm thinking very seriously about this problem and have some ideas... will get back to you.

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