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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hypergraphia: Now There Is a Disorder to Have

I’m reading The Midnight Disease by Alice W. Flaherty. In her book she explores writing disorders, particularly writer’s block and its opposite: Hypergraphia. As writers most of us are intimately acquainted with writer’s block, but we haven’t been introduced to hypergraphia.

People suffering from hypergraphia feel compelled to write almost constantly. These individuals write at a furious pace and have little control over their desires to write. Sometimes it strikes brilliant writers, such as Dostoevsky, and sometimes it strike people without the slightest talent. At first blush, I asked, so what’s the problem? Can I get some of this hypergraphia for myself? However, hypergraphia is a serious disorder springing from physical maladies as serious as temporal lobe epilepsy.

Manic-depressives (bipolar) sometimes display hypergraphia, and writers are estimated to be 10 times more likely to be manic-depressive than people in general. Flaherty, a practicing neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, also teaches at the Harvard Medical School. Her book explores the physiology of compulsive writing and writer’s block. She shows us that complex neurological processes have more to do with our writing output than we ever imagined.
Flaherty doesn’t offer us a “how to” guide for overcoming writer’s block or preventing hypergraphia. Rather, she gives us a chance to appreciate the complexity being blocked as a writer.

When you are desperately looking for excuses not to write, you might give this book a read.

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