All I want to do is write! I write on the bus to and from work, I stayed home last night (Friday night) to write. I hate it and I love it and if I couldn’t write I would probably be in a mental institute. So what’s the problem?
It’s really difficult to strike a balance between this writing addiction and my social life. I even went so far to tell my boyfriend that when I write it is comparable to a junkie shooting up, so he better stay away from me when I am trying to get my fix. I’ve written seven feature screenplays and I’m 23 years old. I can’t stop even though sometimes I feel like I’m possessed by some sort of writing hobgoblin.
My question to you is does this insanity subside a little when you are a professional writer? Have you experienced the write or die phenomenon or am I some sort of freak? I’ve heard about feeding your passion but sometimes it feels like my passion is feeding on me! Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself extremely fortunate.
Obviously, I’m not a psychiatrist. Even if I were, it would be improper to diagnose your condition based on an email. But I will anyway.
You have hypergraphia.
It’s an actual, real thing: the overwhelming urge to write. Alice Weaver Flaherty wrote a whole book on it, The Midnight Disease, which is fascinating reading for any writer, because it investigates the uncomfortable intersection between genius and just-plain-crazy. (Note again: I am not a psychiatrist, so I can freely use the term “crazy.”)
To many screenwriters who struggle to get words on paper, what Lu describes sounds like more of a blessing than a curse. Who wouldn’t want to have written seven screenplays at 23? But keep in mind that just because Lu is writing a lot, doesn’t mean she’s writing well. (If she had written in to complain, “I just can’t stop winning awards for my writing,” we could all feel free shunning her.)
The key terms in her email that let us know what she’s encountering is not altogether positive are “mental institute,” “junkie,” and “possessed by [a] hobgoblin.”
Yes, I’ve gone through periods where I can’t put the pen down. My brain gets locked on an idea, and I have to keep scribbling, often into the wee hours of the night. But it’s a now-and-then thing, not a debilitating condition.
While Flaherty leaves open the question of exactly what causes hypergraphia, my strong hunch is that it’s a form of focussed mania. You’re dealing with the buzz of energy by putting pen to paper — and for a while, it seems great. But the pendulum very often swings the other way to depression, which has its obvious negatives.
My advice to you, Lu, is to do a little life assessment. Block out significant hours — and whole days — where you’re not allowed to write, or even think about writing. See how it goes. My suspicion is that you’ll be climbing the walls, and may decide to see an Actual Mental Health Professional for further guidance. The goal isn’t to get you to stop writing, but to control it, rather than it controlling you.