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
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
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.
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
Flaherty is incredibly well-read and seems to have been attracted to literature with at least as much zest and interest as in her chosen field. I have to admit to some envy in the way she pul ...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.
Who counts as a prolific -- if not quite hypergraphic -- writer? Those often mentioned include Balzac, Burgess, King, Oates, Proust, Trollope, Updike … Of course, who gets on the list is influenced by factors other than output. For instance, my list contains few genre writers because of the c
When she discussed how hypergraphia didn't always make for good writing, I completely understood what she meant because I felt like I was reading an example of it. She rambled and went off t ...more
You’ve been searching, searching, searching,
down long hallways, past still and silent spaces,
finding nothing, nothing, nothing,
climbing flights and flights of stairs,
moving through galleries of images,
not what you’re seeking,
turning corners, crossing passageways,
through blue rooms, through red rooms,
rooms with cupboards, rooms with shelves,
rooms with desks, rooms with drawers,
in one drawer, a gleam of gold,
just what you’re seeking,
you turn it over and over,
you press it, you ...more
I was fascinated by the information presented. I have not read this thorough a book about the mind and the anatomy of the brain and the writing process ever.
There was a psychoana ...more
It had a lot of interesting information and theories, but I often found myself wanting for more of a certain subject. She also often stopped discussing a topic without warning to move into another little spiel about her life and how her writing of this book reflected on the events of her life, which was more than a little irritating. I picked up this book expecting a thorough discussion of the neuroscience behind writ ...more
Good grief. Never have I dragged on a non-fic for as long as I did with this book. I was expecting a technical treatment of the topic, but I walked away with a dryly written autobiography of a neuroscientist who suffered depression whose manifestation is that of hypergraphia. The idea of it sounds great, but the execution was not.
Needless to say, her writing is not that compelling. It could have used some organization, and I agree with most reviews complaining about the lac ...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 had high hopes that there would be some serious science behind the conclusions. Instead, there were no conclusions. Writer's block could be caused by depression...or helped by depression. When people are in a good mood, they write more...or maybe less.
I finished this book because of all the high ratings, but I didn't see the magic. The end digressed into a lot of the author's feelings and personal experience and wander ...more
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