The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain

Flaherty, Alice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: May-27-2004


Dr. Flaherty, a practicing neurologist, sets out to explore the act of writing and, more broadly, creativity, in the context of both neuroscience and emotion. She begins by describing several brain conditions that seem to enhance the need to write, even to the extent of obsessive hypergraphia. Next she turns to the opposite state, writer's block, looking at both psychological and neuroscientific perspectives.

Using some of the recent studies of the relationships between certain brain centers and language related phenomena, Flaherty further clarifies some of the cognitive bases for creating literature. Finally, the study turns specifically to the temporal lobe as the possible organic site of the perceived voice of the muse in religious and creative inspiration.


This work is wide-ranging and entwines the author's personal experience of both hypergraphia and writer's block with her work with patients who experience one or the other. The author uses citations of the relationship between depression and creativity as presented in the works of successful writers, and shows considerable depth in the study of the neuroscientific attempts to locate the seat of literary creativity in specific anatomical sites. Although the prose is very readable, there is a great deal of material packed into this work and the reader must concentrate to stay afloat. Overall, this is an interesting and provocative read for individuals who are driven to write or those who have curiosity about what makes a writer write.


Page count includes 51 pages of references and index.


Houghton Mifflin

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