- Paperback: 307 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books (January 18, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618485414
- ISBN-13: 978-0618485413
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
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From Publishers Weekly
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 this great variety of material together is not the medical authority of a doctor, the personal authority of the patient or even the technical authority of the writer, but the author's deep ambivalence about the proper approach to her subject. Where Sacks uses his stylistic gifts to transform illness into literature, Flaherty wrestles openly with the problem of equating them, putting her own identity as a scientist and as a writer on the line as she explores the possibility of describing writing in medical terms. She details the physiological sources of the impulse to write, and of the creative drive, metaphorical construction and the various modes of stalled or evaded productivity called block. She also includes accounts of what it feels like to write (or fail to write) by Coleridge and Joan Didion as well as by aphasiacs and psychotics. But while science may help one to understand or create literature, "it may not fairly tell you that you should." To a student of literature, Flaherty's struggle between scientific rationalism and literary exuberance is familiar romantic territory. What's moving about this book is how deeply unresolved, in an age of mood pills and weblogs, that old schism remains. Writers will delight in the way information and lore are interspersed; scientists are more likely to be divided.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
"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 evidence, scientists might take issue with Flaherty's claims. Yet Flaherty, who tries to remain impartial, expresses a deep ambivalence about the correct approach to creativity. The book, she emphasizes, is "not meant to be the final word on these complex subjects, but to spur further debate." For us locos, it certainly will.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
If I write for publication, though, I go through the usual process of proofing before proofing, editing before editing, and so on.
The thing that most surprised me was that, through the deluge of words, I was unconsciously becoming a better writer. A more creative writer. I didn't notice it, wasn't aware of any change. But the members of my audiences noticed. They wrote me to tell me that my normally dry prose, always researched-to-death and accurate, was lyrical and poetic and a joy to read. Somehow, as Dr. Flaherty had "predicted," creativity had been awakened.
Flaherty goes beyond the disorder, of course, and into the neurological pathways of the creative mind; exploring the how's and why's. If you've hypergraphia, or know someone who has been diagnosed with the disorder, this is the only "must read" that I know of.
Finally, I doubt that I would have been so taken in by Flaherty's style if I didn't have the disorder. While hypergraphia is all about the writing, I had to make some adjustments to the way that I read. The only way that I've been able to explain that, and it's not something that all with hypergraphia relate to, is that it feels as if I've gone from the staccato of rapid-fire reading to a more relaxed, floating down the slower-running river style. I don't read any more slowly but it feels as if I'm taking in more, hearing with more clarity.
Finally, and this is disorder-oriented, I think, I've gained a greater understanding of the sensuality of words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs. I have a difficult time explaining that, too. Sentences that aren't easily diagrammed seem to have more impact. Words and phrases that are sensual on the tongue – Tolkien's "cellar door" – are also neurologically sensual.
I think that anyone interested in writing and creativity will love the book. It's not only about the disorder; it uses the disorder to explain a process. Can the book help you conquer writer's block and gain (or regain) a heightened sense of creativity? It's possible. It's certainly possible.