Thursday, November 15, 2007

Better Living Through Chemistry?

Your Brain on Happiness

As a society, we're into quick fixes. And when it comes to health, those quick fixes usually come in compact form. Very compact - Americans consume more prescribed (and over-the-counter) drugs per capita than do citizens of any other nation.

There are many reasons for this medication of the masses: wide availability, considerable choice, and a medical-based model of health firmly built on capitalistic legs. This nation also is one of the few developed nations which doesn’t operate a national formulary, or list of approved medications. Indeed, US docs choosing pills for their patients’ ailments run the same baffling and overwhelming confusion Russian émigrés encounter when shopping for cereal at the grocery store: too much stuff. But we are a capitalistic people and we like our meds - and we like them new and shiny and expensive. Medical bling.

But I can't help thinking... maybe we're so into synthetic panaceas because of an ennui unique to American culture. The fact that Americans also drive global demand for illicit drugs - marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens - further supports my niggling suspicion that something’s not quite right in the land of the free and brave.

Maybe it’s the pace (we work more hours per week than the Japanese now) or the push to always be on top ‘o the heap. To succeed in that awfully narrow way that only our culture defines success: money, power, title, a sweet car, flat stomach, and sexual prowess in bed. The expectation of endless happiness and worry-free living coupled with the imperative to banish sadness, anger, and all those other ‘negative’ emotions because they drain our productivity, self-esteem, and even our youth (yes, anxiety does cause wrinkles) drives us, well, crazy.

Better living is just a pill away.

Perhaps. This week, the New York Times reported on two independent studies with the potential to thoroughly redefine the way we consider and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral conditions. One study imaged the brains of over 200 children with and without ADHD for ten years and found ADHD kids had an average 3-1/2 year delay in the development of the brain areas responsible for focus and control. In other words, ADHD children do NOT have a flaw or defect in their grey matter; merely, a delay. The second study, epidemiological in nature, found children with ‘behavioral problems’ in their early elementary years performed as well as ‘normal’ children by the fifth grade.

Maybe these studies are the beginning of evidence that might slow down the Medication Express. Maybe. But somehow, I doubt it because it’s just so much easier to take Ritalin twice a day then to deal with rambunctious children for 3 years while waiting for their brains to catch up…

Writing Notes: Today I started marketing BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. Yep. Sent to a few agents I met at conferences who requested the first three chapters. They’re perfect. As perfect as they’re going to get this year. Putting them into their fedex envelopes felt good. And scary as hell. Halloween may be over, but the mailbox will be my boogeyman for the next few weeks - and likely not my friend. But it’s time to clear the plate, get ready for PURE, which I’ve been dreaming about, an excellent sign I’m ready to move on to another two-year novel writing binge. Here’s a snippet:

Later, much later, after the shock began to wear off, people asked, “Where were you when it happened?” I remember exactly where I was at that precise moment - doesn't everyone? Tuesday was the one day of the week I didn’t have to rush out early to lecture the spoiled undergrad minions or schlep glassware and slides for Tien's lab, so that particular morning found me in the kitchen with a mug of coffee uncharacteristically lazy and happy due to my earlier twelve mile run. “One of the ten best days of the year,” the weatherman promised as my feet swept my willing body along the Charles River, the dawn cracking into a perfect cerulean canvas. But later, alone in my apartment, for some reason I felt an urge to turn on the television, which I rarely do because it's mindless, loud, and I’m too damn busy. So it was a total fluke I flipped on the tube and watched the north tower flame into smoking clouds. And as it telescoped into itself, collapsing into dusty, horrifying rubble, I vaguely wondered if my father was in Japan…

Peace, and happy writing... Linda


  1. *jumping up and down*

    this is SO exciting!!! I wish your manuscripts speedy deliveries and the agents even speedier acceptances!

  2. does writing make you extraordinarily deliciously happy? i think it probably makes all those synapses in my brain turn blue.

    best luck!

  3. Twiz, thanks. It IS exciting. Nail-grawingly nerve-wracking thrilling. A reason to get butt out of chair from writing and get exercise (I have a long driveway). I hope something comes speedily - I'd hate to do the 241 day thing... would drive me to chocolate.

    Moonrat, thanks for finding this little blog o' mine. Hope your writing brain effervesces blue from the CAT scan and not because of sadness. Writing DOES make me deliciously happy, wickedly happy, up there with other endorphin-producing activities, heh-heh. Probably more so.

    Cool blog yours, been lurking... love the pecking order of the publishing world... it exists in my little ivory tower, too. (sigh) Peace, Linda

  4. I wish you the best, most awesomely luscious luck in your responses from agents. And kudos to you for taking that step!

    I can't wait for PURE. It's going to rock. I already love the beginning, and from talking to you, I know you have it all thought out.

    So this type of blog here - is that the kind of thing Ben might be writing in Pure?

  5. Hey Chrys!!!! Knock 'em dead this weekend! Wish I was there... your first chapter is solid, you're gonna have the audience bowing at your feet.

    Oh, nooooo... Ben's blog will be more irreverent, much more controversial. Think INSTAPUNDIT but geared towards tearing down the towers of science and the hallowed halls of academe. Ben tells me he plans to launch late 2008, after he gets tenure... heh, heh, heh...