The Unbearable Lightness of Writing

Writing, or as Juvenal the Roman poet put it, ‘the incurable writing disease’, should come with a health warning. In fact, judging by the many names that allude to the links between writing and mental health (‘graphomania’ from the Greek ‘writing’ plus ‘insanity’, ‘scribomania, ‘hypergraphia’ and ‘typomania’) it should positively be avoided.

Aristotle pointed out the link between madness and genius, but can it be said one causes the other? Does writing make us mad, or do we write because we are mad in the first place? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Maybe it’s true that those with mental health problems see the world in a different way and therefore see things others cannot, and not always negatively. On the other hand, maybe there is an intrinsic madness in undertaking the task of translating the world from one’s own mind into a language that can be deciphered…

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