Sometimes writing feels as if I am bleeding my soul. At times, it is rejuvenating, invigorating, but there are times when I am working through a difficult part, something that really connects with me emotionally, that I feel as if I am opening a vein to write and pouring out my very life energy. It’s addicting.
And I can’t stop. Maybe that makes me a writing junkie. I know it worries the hell out of my husband. Sometimes in the middle of the night he’ll find me busily hammering away at the keyboard and he’ll have to physically remove me to get me to come to bed. When I’m teaching, when I’m fixing dinner, when I’m doing laundry, I’m always thinking about writing; about a plot twist that suddenly makes sense, a character I need to explore, a detail that will complete a scene perfectly.
I keep notebooks in my purse, in my car, near my bed, in the kitchen, with my teaching things. I have two or three pens in my wallet, in my car, above my washer and dryer. I never want to be out of reach of something that allows me to write. I have a lap top computer, but I stopped lugging it around because it weighs too much and I can’t always find a place to plug it in. Paper and pen is much easier.
It is an addiction, and it does drain me, but I never stop wanting more.
In her book “The Midnight Disease” Alice Flaherty talks about this obsession from her background as a research neurologist. She explores hypergraphia – the overwhelming desire (need?) to write that some writers experience. She even goes so far as to look at the connection between mental illness and creativity, drawing inferences about the role mental illness plays in supporting creativity, or conversely, the role that creativity plays in supporting mental illness.
This book changed my life, by the way. Maybe saved it a few years ago. But that is another story for another time.
Flaherty also writes in her book that reasons we write are located in the limbic system, in some of the oldest parts of the cortex. The limbic system is a very primitive part of the brain and it oversees fear, food, fighting and sex (the Four Fs as she describes it!). It makes sense to me then that this drive to write is housed in an ancient section of the mind, and that it is so closely connected to strong emotion and need. We humans are not as evolved as we’d like to think ourselves to be, and as evidenced by things such as the Lascaux cave paintings in Dodogne, France, story has been a part of human culture since its very beginnings. It gave us meaning, gave us something spiritual, and helped us to decipher the complexities of survival and death.
If this compelling urge to write is linked anywhere in my brain, then I think it is logical to assume it would be in the most primitive of locations.
For me, this drive to write is the same as the drive to survive. I can’t NOT write. Sometimes I can suppress the urge. Sometimes I can wean myself of the addiction, but it inevitably comes back and causes me to spend hours at my keyboard, bleeding my soul onto the screen or the page, because I don’t know what else to do. I escape it for short periods of time to teach classes, to help my kids, to spend time with my beloved, but inevitably I am forced back because it is where I need to return to be fully myself, fully human.
So I suffer from the Midnight Disease, I open that psychic vein and let it pump words onto a screen, and I rejoice in knowing that it is divinely human to do so. I guess I’ll just keep feeding the addiction.