The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
Editorial Review - Reed Business Information (c) 2003
Flaherty (The Massachusetts General Handbook of Neurology) mixes memoir, meditation, compendium and scholarly reportage in an odd but absorbing look at the neurological basis of writing and its pathologies. Like Oliver Sacks, Flaherty has her own story to tell a postpartum episode involving hypergraphia and depression that eventually hospitalized her. But what holds t...more
1) I am a writer. There were too many times I recognized myself when Flaherty discussed the act or the desire or the joy in writing.
2) When reading a piece written by a scientist, I expect it to be point-driven, logical, and to build upon previous conclusions. This work is not.
Frequently I found myself reading, "And the third idea is ..." only to reply, "Huh??" The author seems unable to stay away from rabbit trails, coming back to the argument at hand only after...more
1. The writing was horrible. It needed a heartless editor. It rarely left the hypergraphic stage-- incoherent and longwinded.
2. I'm highly skeptical of all the posthumous diagnoses. (You know Moses' metal illnesses? Really?)
3. The science didn't seem to hold up, mainly relying on the above. (If there was much behind it, it stayed behind).
4. The author's experience was annoyingly invoked and abandoned. It interrupted the rest of the book, but wa...more
The book is fascinating in its descriptions of writers who had The Midnight Disease - an untamable urge to write, as well as authors who suffered with writer's block who could prolifically write notes to friends but could not write a page in a book without agony.
Ms. Flaherty makes complex brain processes understandable and interesting in this great book about creativity.
Instead I discovered why I do not write at certain times and why I need to write at others. Not all of my discovery is pleasant, but it's a truth I needed to understand about myself.
A lot of this book is about brain science and yes, bra...more
I don't know what a non-writer would think of it, but I found it fascinating.
She starts out with a discussion of hypergraphia which is the compulsive need to write. It's associated with temporal lobe epilepsy and with maniac-depression and it's probably not what drove you to write so much at some point. Doctors discovered that they had a simple test for epileptic patients as to whether they were hypergraphic: ask them to write a letter describing their health. Non...more
Ms. Flaherty, a physician, suffered an episode of post-partum depression after her twin sons died; this depression was manifested in (among other behaviours) hypergraphia - an uncontrollable desire to write, and write and write. Once she recovered (more or less) she decided to explore the p...more
"Researchers will soon be able to see which patterns of brain activity underlie creativity," Flaherty claims. By offering some powerful physiological theories for the creative process, Flaherty debunks the idea that creativity stems from psychological inspiration. A few impenetrable parts notwithstanding, she eloquently translates scientific information into layman's terms, instilling her narrative with fascinating literary and personal anecdotes and practical advice for writers. Citing skimpy e...more
I also learned why writing is so tied into grief, and why, when my lover died, the only place that I found real solace was with fountain pen in hand.
She talks about over-writing, writer's block, and especially fascinating, the drive to write. (Considering a few thousand years ago humans weren't writing at all. All right human evolution!)
Whenever I feel a bit stuck I look at this quote from the book, "The inability to write reflects the sufferer's feeling that he or she cannot contribute to the world, cannot communicate with others in any meaningful way." So volunteer work will help...more