Writers! Do you ever wonder if you suffer from this? Hypergraphia, an abnormal compulsion to write, is a confirmed psychological disorder, though whether it is actually a blessing or a curse is not quite clear. Hypergraphics of the past would fill volume after volume of notebooks with fevered prose, relentless thoughts that demanded to be set down with pen and ink; but these days, the PC becomes the enabler, allowing those afflicted to fill up hard drives and the mysterious ‘cloud’. On the self-publishing forums, this kind of behavior is encouraged, perhaps to the detriment of readers everywhere, in order to maintain a stream of income and keep your name in front the reading public.
I found myself thinking about this disorder, now that I’m back at work: Scribbling down this very post in between pupils, on a sheet of student composition paper. My pockets and my purse are filled with pads and scraps of paper containing desperate scribbles, makeshift outlines, and endless lists: Groceries, character names, books I want to read, places I need to visit. I’m already halfway through a novel I only started writing two weeks ago. I’ve been a little worried about my prodigious writing output these past few weeks, which seems to me verging on the abnormal. Is it all due to inspiration from my recent trip, or is it some kind of certifiable craziness?
I do have a history of ‘binge’ writing, but it’s a fairly rare occurrence, and usually I’m pretty slow and steady, as writers go. I don’t really believe in inspiration as a writing tool, but I have experienced some pretty intense creative urges. I’m not bipolar, as far as I know, but I do wonder how close those urges are to a manic state. Is this healthy or unhealthy? Is it true writing?
I suppose what separates hypergraphia from sheer prolificacy is talent and intelligence, and, perhaps, a more refined thinking process. Maybe the test for hypergraphia is how it stands up to editing. No matter how writing is born and created, it still needs to be readable. I remember when my mother-in-law suffered a serious stroke: We found spiral-bound notebooks completely filled with handwritten gibberish–one page had nothing but the letter ‘g’ on it. When I asked her about these later, she told me she believed she was writing down the story of her stroke and how she felt as it occurred.She thought her writing was making perfect sense as she wrote it, and that haunts me now. Will that happen to me one day? Will I actually begin writing nonsense or gibberish, without even realizing it? Even worse–will I try to publish it? Hopefully not!
Much of my crazier scribbling—the scraps and pads in my pockets, for example—are indeed desperate efforts to get things down before I forget them. I’ve become quite forgetful. My internist assures me my lapses are ‘normal’ for ‘my age,’ and dementia and Alzheimer’s seem unlikely, but this is little comfort when I forget words I want or need, or can’t remember a song title, or enter a room three or four times a day and can’t remember why. Or call my students by the wrong name. That, and the new teeth I had installed last year make me feel pretty old.
But then, it’s all justification for writing too much. Who knows how much longer I’ll be in the world? I hope another thirty or forty years, probably less, but…there won’t be any writing from the grave, so may as well get it all in now. Just try and bear with me!