Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Hypergraphia and creativity (2)

I’m taking some of my cues from the comments from the first article and hoping to explain why hypergraphia is a condition rather than just a rather extreme creative jag.

Hypergraphia is described as a compulsion and in medical terms this means something more than we commonly think of compulsion. A compulsion is rather stronger than merely wanting or desiring. The Oxford Handy dictionary states ” irresistable urge to a form of behaviour esp. contrary to one’s normal wishes” and this is pretty much how hypergraphia  can take people. Under it’s influence, people will write on any surface with any implement if denied the usual pen and paper or keyboard. They will write to the detriment of home, family and health, ignoring their job, their hobbies, their friends and pretty much anything else. It’s rare that what they write is actually worth reading. 

I was never formally diagnosed with the condition, though I did email Dr Flaherty who confirmed that what I had gone through was almost certainly a form of hypergraphia and she also agreed with me that it was actually quite enjoyable! My GP, who had never heard of the condition, was quite prepared to send me for referral if that was what I wanted. I didn’t, largely because I had enjoyed it and the results had been very good, but I had visited my doctor because I had felt I needed outside confirmation that I wasn’t errm.. how shall I put this….actually mad as a hatter and needing psychiatric care. I had also worried that if this was the result of an unusual seizure that I might need to have it looked into to prevent actual brain damage. I have had experiences that make me think I am subject to either (a) divine contact or (b) temporal lobe seizures or (c) quite possibly both. I’ve also had tentative diagnoses of a milder form of bi-polar disorder that have never gone further than “Well, we’d like you to try Lithium and see if that helps, because you are showing some signs of it but not enough to really worry too much at this stage…”

Doctors, huh!

My episode, if that was what it was, lasted about a month, during which I wrote 105,000 words longhand and then typed it all up on a pc. I felt bereft when the words stopped pouring into my head and out through my hands. I felt …emptied.

Even though since then I have written another seven novels and begun a ninth, I have never written under than sort of compulsion again in the five years since it happened. Oh, I get into a sort of trance when I work or when I walk, letting the tales grow in my mind, but never like that. I lost ten or twelve pounds in the seventeen days I was writing longhand, I stopped sleeping properly, I was buzzing with nervous energy and couldn’t keep still. It felt magnificent but I think it might have killed me if it had continued for too long. I know my husband was watching closely to see what happened but while I know it could have been very, very bad for me indeed, I would love to have it happen again. It was simply better than any drug, any experience of my life so far and to put it simply, I felt completely alive, and I’m a person who aims to live life to the full every day.

It’s just as well that you can’t create the trigger or I’d have my finger on that trigger right now.


by Viv


January 5, 2009 - Posted by | Art, books, culture, family, God in our life, health, personal, psychology, writing | , , , , , , ,


  1. I think it would need to be a very strong person indeed who resisted the temptation to tap into such a seemingly bottomless well of creative output. Though it never actually stopped me eating or sleeping, (I jealously covet both) when Miki and I met and the creative sparks and mutual understanding first took flight, I wrote songs, more in 6 months than the previous 6 years – wrote poetry every day, started stories, novels, accompanying music for her paintings, it simply gushed out of me. I think it had always been there, but i needed someone who understood my inner workings and could press the right buttons. if what I have is a disease, I can only hope it’s chronic!

    Comment by kevmoore | January 5, 2009

  2. Very interesting again! I certainly believe that the compulsive writing how you describe it in the first section is a disease!

    Concerning you, I must say that i don’t see anything similar, really. You are, as far as I can see until now, a passionate and very intense person, aiming “to live life to the full every day” and this for me, goes hand in hand with the way how you wrote your first novel.

    It is also exactly the way how I wrote my first novel, “The Gate at The End of The Desert”, similar amount of words, similar amount of time, no sleeping, hardly eating. But I NEVER had the feeling of any abnormality or disease there, on the contrary, I found it quite normal. When you spend so many hours stretching your brain to the extremes, it is normal that it cannot sleep and eat. I always have these symptoms when I am in a phase of extreme creativity: I don’t need sleep, I don’t need food. I just need to go on and on doing my stuff, until it is finished. I am very happy about this, I must admit, because thanks this quality I had many successes in my life.
    By the way, I was like that as a little child already, with mathematics. i could not stop doing maths, because I loved it and found it more exciting for my brain than anything else. And as i was, and still am, addicted to brain excitement, this is why I could not stop.
    If there is a disease somewhere, then it is in the addiction to life and the feeling to feel alive…

    Comment by Miki | January 5, 2009

  3. I am unsure really, but to be honest, the way it felt was quite different from the passion of a good day’s writing and the fact that it came on the heels of a difficult time and the decision some months before that I would not write again at all. I am a disciplined person as well as a creative one and I have always been able to achieve balance between the passion of creation and the need for a baseline daily life; this completely undid me.
    Illness or not, it was an amazing time. I’ve had such a time of it with my mental health over the years that I need to be very careful of developments, because dealing with things before they get too bad is always better than the alternatives.

    Comment by viv66 | January 5, 2009

  4. I think it’s fair to say that if you’re hypergraphic, there’s no doubt about it. 5 AM every morning. Thank God for computers. I couldn’t possibly keep up with what I have to write if I had to use a pencil or a crayon or any such utensil. I’ve finally decided it’s more fun than distressing although sometimes it’s just wacky. Sometimes it’s worth reading, mostly not. Even my blog is that way.
    Enjoy the insanity.

    Comment by Harold Knight | September 22, 2009

  5. Hello Harold,
    thanks for the visit. I find mine seems to wax and wane; that one major episode was almost enough to finish me off. Now I find I just write and am not driven by it. It is indeed better to go with it.
    I shall have a peep at your blog too,

    Comment by viv66 | September 22, 2009

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