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The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain

by

The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain Cover

ISBN13: 9780618485413
ISBN10: 0618485414
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Why is it that some writers struggle for months to come up with the perfect sentence or phrase while others, hunched over a keyboard deep into the night, seem unable to stop writing?

In The Midnight Disease, neurologist Alice W. Flaherty explores the drive to write, what sparks it, and what extinguishes it. Flaherty, who herself has grappled with episodes of compulsive writing and block, offers a brave and compelling personal account of a fascinating condition. As in Lauren Slater's Prozac Diary and Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind, "the power of this work comes from Flaherty's being a first-class writer who has lived this story" (Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country).

Dissecting the role of emotion and the ways in which neurological and mood disorders can lead to meager — or prodigious — creative output, Flaherty draws on examples from case studies and from the lives of writers, from Franz Kafka to Anne Lamott, Sylvia Plath to Stephen King.

Review:

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. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Simplistic notions like the one that says creativity is a function of the right side of the brain go out the window, to be replaced by complex, yet entirely plausible, correlations between brain states and creative acts." David Pitt, Booklist

Review:

"[Flaherty] is the real thing...and her writing magically transforms her own tragedies into something strange and whimsical almost, almost funny." The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"The Midnight Disease remains a signal achievement, providing remarkable dividends for readers interested in the human brain and artistic creativity." Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Review:

"This is interesting, heated stuff." The San Francisco Chronicle

Synopsis:

Why is it that some writers struggle for months to come up with the perfect sentence or phrase while others, hunched over a keyboard deep into the night, seem unable to stop writing? In The Midnight Disease, neurologist Alice W. Flaherty explores the mysteries of literary creativity: the drive to write, what sparks it, and what extinguishes it. She draws on intriguing examples from medical case studies and from the lives of writers, from Franz Kafka to Anne Lamott, from Sylvia Plath to Stephen King. Flaherty, who herself has grappled with episodes of compulsive writing and block, also offers a compelling personal account of her own experiences with these conditions.

Synopsis:

Neurologist Flaherty explores the drive to write, what sparks it, and what extinguishes it. She offers a brave and compelling account of the role of emotion and the ways in which neurological and mood disorders can lead to meager--or prodigious--creative output.

About the Author

Alice Weaver Flaherty is a young doctor, a neurologist, who has gone from a summa cum laude degree at Harvard, to a PhD from MIT, to an MD from Harvard Medical School, to a position as chief resident in neurology (in her early thirties) at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she is now staff neurologist and "where I surreptitiously do a lot of writing." She sees patients regularly, specializes in the innovative technique of deep brain stimulators, and is the author of a number of scientific papers on the brain's representation of the body. She lives with her husband and twin daughters in Cambridge, Mass.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

julieatwood48, December 16, 2008 (view all comments by julieatwood48)
I have been a freelance writer and cartoonist with a newspaper for over 21 years. During that time, I have produced 63 short stories which were published, along with numerous poems. While in therapy for a dissociative disorder, I wrote extensively and shared my journals with my psychologist- who in turn- shared my writings with his colleagues. Between 1989-1996, I experienced an onslaught of different states of consciousness and an accelerated thought process which resulted in severe hypergraphia. The human mind is a warehouse in which information is recorded and stored. A reservoir of creativity exists within this domain, and when one learns to "tap" into this well of knowledge, one is inundated with information. The thought process speeds up and one gains access to everything available inside their mind. I wrote continuously, day and night, and produced an enormous amount of journals, essays, stories, poems, cartoons and artwork. Besides my literary skills, I excelled in other areas of life and I worked almost at the speed of light. My whole cognitive system was shoved into "warp speed" and I could not control the flood of information pouring into my mind. While this process offers high creativity and production, it can be overwhelming and exhausting-depending on how much is stored within the mind's data banks. I was often asked, "Where do you store it all?" The brain's storage facility is unlimited, and when one is eidetic, there is an informational overload. A picture says a thousand words - well, when a person has a photographic mind, the words are endless. To control the flooding process, so one is not overwhelmed, one needs to learn moderation. Knowledge is good, but too much knowledge can be dangerous. I suffered for years with migraines and seizures. In June of 2003, I underwent brain surgery for an enlarged cyst. Once the pressure inside my head was alleviated, the seizures came to an abrupt halt and the quality of my life improved. But...as you can see here...my bouts of hypergraphia continue!
P.S. I wrote to Dr. Flaherty awhile back and told her about my own experience with hypergraphia.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780618485413
Author:
Flaherty, Alice W.
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Author:
Flaherty, Alice Weaver
Location:
Boston
Subject:
Neuropsychology
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing - General
Subject:
Reference/Writing
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
January 2005
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
9 b/w illustrations
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.34x5.50x.77 in. .70 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
Reference » Writing » General

The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Mariner Books - English 9780618485413 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , 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. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Simplistic notions like the one that says creativity is a function of the right side of the brain go out the window, to be replaced by complex, yet entirely plausible, correlations between brain states and creative acts."
"Review" by , "[Flaherty] is the real thing...and her writing magically transforms her own tragedies into something strange and whimsical almost, almost funny."
"Review" by , "The Midnight Disease remains a signal achievement, providing remarkable dividends for readers interested in the human brain and artistic creativity."
"Review" by , "This is interesting, heated stuff."
"Synopsis" by ,
Why is it that some writers struggle for months to come up with the perfect sentence or phrase while others, hunched over a keyboard deep into the night, seem unable to stop writing? In The Midnight Disease, neurologist Alice W. Flaherty explores the mysteries of literary creativity: the drive to write, what sparks it, and what extinguishes it. She draws on intriguing examples from medical case studies and from the lives of writers, from Franz Kafka to Anne Lamott, from Sylvia Plath to Stephen King. Flaherty, who herself has grappled with episodes of compulsive writing and block, also offers a compelling personal account of her own experiences with these conditions.
"Synopsis" by , Neurologist Flaherty explores the drive to write, what sparks it, and what extinguishes it. She offers a brave and compelling account of the role of emotion and the ways in which neurological and mood disorders can lead to meager--or prodigious--creative output.
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