February 02, 2004

getting high in the library

Caren Lissner recently linked to a description of a new book (and interview with that bookís author). The book is The Midnight Disease, by Alice Weaver Flaherty. Itís about hypergraphia, defined as the overwhelming urge to write. As Flaherty describes it, it sounds like the creative urge is found somewhere in the temporal lobes. Brain injuries can affect it, as can neurological conditions. Fascinating stuff.

This ties into something Iíve been contemplating recently. If you ask me why I write, I have a pile of reasons. Theyíre all true, maybe some more than others. But the real reason I write is far simpler. I write because it gives me a rush. A physical rush. Oh, not the kind of writing Iím doing right now, putting words together to describe or muse on a given topic. Fiction. Dipping into the stream of semi-conscious right-brain meets left-brain word/sentence/story shaping. That kind of writing. Sometimes I hate it, sometimes itís like slogging through week-old city slush in slippers, wet and cold and probably contaminated. But sometimes Ė oh, yes. Sometimes itís like a drunken sleepy dream, a delicious sherry dream but no, thatís not quite it either.

One day last week I spent my afternoon writing in the library, sinking deep into the prose. I was surprised when it was already almost three. I staggered (well, walked) to the car, started the ignition, drove the few blocks to school. Halfway there, I realized I was still in a daze. It was almost like a hypnotic trance. An altered state. Like I should get a blood test to make sure I was legal to drive. So it doesnít surprise me that thereís some neurochemical element to the writing process. It only surprises me that people donít talk about it more.

Posted by Tamar at February 2, 2004 10:10 PM

This happens to me a lot and it's really difficult to shift gears and function again on demand.

Posted by: Amanda at February 3, 2004 08:01 AM

Exactly! I've had people talk to me and found myself staring blankly at them, as if they were talking in a foreign language. Hard to switch gears.

Posted by: Tamar at February 4, 2004 11:19 PM