Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Midnight Disease

2004, undated later edition, from Houghton Mifflin
Alice W. Flaherty
The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
Bought newish for $15.00
Slightly worn paperback

Flaherty is a neurologist and a mother of twins, as well as a writer, and she brings all these perspectives to this book.  She also quotes a variety of writers, from Flaubert to Mel Brooks.  Although there's a lot in here about how the brain works, it never gets too dry or technical, but instead is funny, lively, and thought-provoking.  You won't necessarily learn how to unblock your writer's block, but you'll learn some coping techniques, including how to see the block as part of the process.

At the time I reviewed The Golden Notebook, I said that I'd never seriously had a writer's block.  Well, after that I did find myself stalled on one story, but I eventually realized that I didn't really want to be writing it.  I came to accept that if writing isn't easy for me, it won't be good, and vice versa.  And then a few months ago I was able to write from three to six short chapters a day of a different story, until I reached the home-stretch and had to tie up loose ends, which slowed me down to a chapter every day or so.  

I don't think I have hypergraphia, which she discusses here as a compulsion to write quickly and at great length, but it is something I relate to more than a block, and why I bought this book in the first place, because no one ever talks about it in comparison to block.  (Obviously, it's much less of a problem, unless it's interfering with other tasks.)  I also liked things like her observation that the "inner child" has little to do with actual children's behavior.  (The stuff with her twins, then three, is great.)  And about 35 years after Kate Millett, Flaherty can let a simple "Yikes" suffice for Freud's view of the pen as penis.

I was also amused that in '04, roughly three years after I got a LiveJournal account, she defines "blog (from Web-log)" as an "on-line memoir."  Obviously, blogs (not just this one) are often used for less diaristic purposes as well.

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