I have yet to read The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, a book by Alice Flaherty. As soon as I check it out from the library, I will.
In my work to better understand my intuitive abilities, I had an introduction to automatic writing, and I suddenly remembered something I had read about Sylvia Plath years ago – that she had hypergraphia.
This got me thinking about the millions of bloggers using the Internet to express themselves in written form. Do we all have socially acceptable hypergraphia? People can access blogs via any portable or handheld device, so for those who have the devices, they can write at any moment when they have the urge. Huge numbers of us in the “developed world” are also more isolated from meaningful direct connection with people than probably at any time in human history. When was the last time a doctor had more than 10 minutes to listen to your health problem? When was the last time you talked to a live human being when calling a company or going to a bank? How many hours do we spend in homes hooked into screen devices instead of family members? I am old enough to remember a time when the infrastructure of our lives involved a lot more direct human connection. We transmit our written words to the ether, some directed to specific audiences, some purely for self-expression, akin to the SETI arrays sending signals into space, not expecting a coherent life form response.
In searching for information about hypergraphia, I learned countless famous authors (Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates) and even visual artists (Van Gogh) were hypergraphics.
I am someone who has always been able to best express myself in writing, and for a time I would literally wake in the middle of the night to write entire poems. So I suppose I would fit the definition of a hypergraphic. The compulsion has been linked to mental illness, but I firmly believe a person does not need to have a mental illness to be hypergraphic. The boundary between creativity and mental illness has always been thin. Just because a person most easily finds meaning in their world and sense of purpose via writing does not make them mentally unstable. I suppose instability comes when a person writes to exclusion of all other forms of interacting with the world. Then again, who is to say that philosophers and creative minds connecting to the world through writing is a negative thing?