Tag Archives: creativity

Hypergraphia: How Not to Write

10 Aug

One of the reasons I don’t usually write creative or personal pieces is that I don’t like looking too closely at my past experiences. It requires a facility with mood regulation that I have yet to achieve. I keep so much back, all the time, fighting with memories and emotional currents. I need to put them in boxes, not channel them.

T.S. Eliot once said that he wrote to escape from his emotions. I think that’s bullshit. We are driven by our emotions. There is no escaping them (especially not in writing). But mine overwhelm me if I’m not careful. I’ve finally internalized the fact that I can’t run from them, but I endeavor to keep them at a safe distance. 

I stopped performing for much the same reason as I stopped writing, even though I loved it and exhibited some potential. There were also the overlapping issues of hypomania and sleep hygiene. Performing makes me speedy and it often involves being “on” at night. Then I can’t sleep and things spin out of control.

I’m predisposed to being on at night. I used to start writing around 8 or 9 PM and go for hours until I passed out. This practice began when I turned twelve and the shit hit the fan.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a box full of my old notebooks. It was pure hypergraphia. Some of the pages had holes where the pressure of my pen had pushed through. Many were so covered in ink that hardly any white showed.  When I reached the end of a page, I sometimes spun the book ninety degrees and continued writing so I wouldn’t have to stop.

Those notebooks horrified me. They chronicled the onset and development of my illness. So, over my mother’s bewildered protestations, I threw them out. 

Franz Kafka wrote his short story “The Judgment” in one night during a bout of hypergraphia. His family tearfully intervened in the morning, begging him to stop, and he collapsed. 

Kafka’s world was one of trauma. His hometown of Prague had a lengthy history of Anti-Semitic pogroms, the most notorious of which occurred on Easter Sunday in 1389 when a mob massacred 3000 men, women, and children and burned the Jewish quarter to the ground. The history of the pogroms was recent enough that the generation before his remembered them. Within this context, his Jewish family bore its own wounds. His two younger brothers died in infancy when he was six years old, and he had an exceedingly complicated and painful relationship with his father.

He confronted all of this pain in his writing, channeling it to create inimitable works of art. And he died in his thirties of tuberculosis after years of ill health, anorexia, and suicidal ideation.

I know that you don’t have to suffer to write well, but given my history, I don’t see how I could write effectively without examining my own pain. I’m afraid to do that because it could unleash my illness, which means I don’t write honestly. Without honesty, the writing falls flat.

So many of the writers I admire embraced their crazy. They looked unflinching at the world. They held nothing back. And almost all of them died early from suicide or substance abuse or lack of self-care.

Maybe I should just learn to play the violin instead.

Cool Website: “Developing Creativity”

19 Feb


Douglas Eby has been curating the website Talent Development Resources (talentdevelopment.com) for fifteen years. He’s also written several books about honing and channeling personal creativity. This particular page focuses on psychology and creativity, including discussions about bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, and trauma. Eby started his site while studying psychology as an exploration into his own creative processes. LOADS of great articles and links, a veritable smorgasbord of info and inspiration.

“The Maria Bamford Show”

14 Feb

In 2006, stand-up comedian Maria Bamford had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a set and dropped off the comedy scene to stay with her parents in Duluth MN while she got her head together. During her convalescence, she created “The Maria Bamford Show,” a series of video shorts chronicling her interactions with her parents, sister, and friends as she tries to find stability.

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“The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”: Excellent Documentary by Stephen Fry

11 Feb

Stephen Fry, the British actor best known in the States for his recurring role on the TV show Bones and his tasteful nude scene in Guy Ritchie’s last Sherlock Holmes movie, also happens to be bipolar. After being diagnosed at the age of 37, he sought understanding of his illness by reconnecting with people from his past and discussing his troubled youth in which he exhibited behaviors now recognizable as symptoms of mania, stealing and profligate spending being the standouts. He also reaches out to other bipolar folks, including a college student struggling to fathom how her illness affects her creativity as a writer, a heavily medicated woman prone to catatonic stupor, two brothers who were diagnosed bipolar at the ages of 11 and 17,  and bipolar actors Carrie Fischer and Richard Dreyfuss.

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Bipolar Artists

7 Feb



Gorgeous and often disturbing (big shock) visual art by artists with bipolar disorder.

Trauma’s Labyrinth

7 Feb


I am so in love with this blog. The author is a “mental health scholar” with a fancy-pants PhD from Stanford AND she’s an interning psychotherapist, so her writing is informed from both a theoretical and practical perspective (yaye praxis!). If, like me, you are interested in the relationship between mental illness and creativity, or if, also like me, you are fascinated with intergenerational trauma, I am confident you will dig this site. Added bonus: she loooooooves Carl Jung.

“Does Trauma Increase Creativity?” by Laura K. Kerr

6 Feb

“Having the ability to relay to others a coherent account of traumatic events can be crucial for overcoming trauma’s impact. By connecting with others and feeling supported in the wake of trauma, the sense of threat is diminished and healthy boundaries can be reestablished. Trauma by its very nature isolates a person, both from a holistic sense of self and from feeling safe in community–a common response that can ensure boundaries are not once again overwhelmed. Recovery from trauma involves both regaining aspects of self that have been lost as well as regaining connections with others. Symbolic representation may be the bridge to both.”

Does Trauma Increase Creativity?

This is a fascinating look at how suffering from PTSD can increase a person’s facility with symbolic representation. It also provides a great description of the changes in brain function associated with sustaining psychological trauma.
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