Hello Cruel World
Friday, February 20, 2004
The Midnight Disease
by Alice Weaver Flaherty
... Why is it that some writers struggle for months to come up with the perfect sentence or phrase, while others, hunched over a notepad or keyboard deep into the night, seem unable to stop writing? In The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain (Houghton Mifflin, January), neurologist Alice W. Flaherty explores the hows and whys of writing, revealing the science behind hypergraphia — the overwhelming urge to write — and its dreaded opposite, writer's block. The result is an innovative contribution to our understanding of creative drive, one that throws new light on the work of some of our greatest writers.
A neurologist whose work puts her at the forefront of brain science, Flaherty herself suffered from hypergraphia after the loss of her prematurely born twins ...
... Dissecting the role of emotion in writing and the ways in which brain-body and mood disorders can lead to prodigious — or meager — creative output, Flaherty uses examples from her own life and the lives of writers from Kafka to Anne Lamott, from Sylvia Plath to Stephen King ...
[NOTE: She now has 'twin daughters', so she must have had another set. MCP]
FROM the Q & A:
... One person who fascinates me is van Gogh, who was hypergraphic and who painted with a fury that amazed others and even himself. He was one of the most prolific artists ever, and at the same time he wrote two to three long letters a day to his brother Theo. Schumann is another example — he wrote feverishly while he was composing feverishly. The incredible drive of those two artists to communicate something, regardless of the medium, is evidence that the temporal lobe is involved not only in the drive to write but in the drive behind other art forms as well.
As for examples of writer's block, the strange thing is how paradoxically eloquent many writers are in describing their block ...
AND ... In psychological terms, it seems that drive is more important than talent. Dean Simonton at Stanford has argued that the composers who produced the greatest works, like Mozart and Beethoven, are simply the ones who wrote the most — they were composing all the time, as they walked down the street or sat at a dinner party. But the type of motivation is important ...
ALSO ... I've grudgingly come to admit that exercise greatly increases my mental sharpness and creativity. And there are scientific studies showing that exercise is as good as Prozac in mild depression.
Q) ... Do you think there is a particular link between creativity and disease?
A) That question has a very complicated answer ...
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