What historians don’t pathologize.

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Another short one but at least I’m posting. It’s something I just remembered while thinking about history. 

I’ve written about hypergraphia before. It’s the medicalized term for compulsive writing (just one form of compulsion-level creativity thought to be linked to temporal lobe oddities, and it’s a way I’ve been described before). It doesn’t have to be any particular kind of writing though. I used to just write lists, or write the words of a book over and over. Many people described as hypergraphic write incredibly detailed journals going over every minute of the day. 

I was telling someone about this years ago. Turns out she was a history major. Her response was “Oh historians love people like that!  That’s how they find out what people’s day to day life was like in the past.”  So that’s one group of people who don’t pathologize hypergraphia. 

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7 responses »

  1. I was reading a history book in which the author was trying to encourage people to keep diaries, recollections and just generally write things down, for exactly that reason.

  2. I pretty much stopped keeping a diary because I relaised I was filling it with boring details. I’d write two or more sides of A4 per day at times. Now I just write a summary of the year near the end of each year or the beginning of the new year.

    A difficulty I can’t beat is a compulsive need to read, reread, rereread, and so on, my own writing. Doesn’t matter if it’s e-mails or articles I’ve written, whatever, and that’s far more dead-ended than hypergraphia.

  3. Well as Prince William Henry (we used to have a pub named after him in Foleshill) said to the author of Rome’s decline and fall

    “Allways scribble scribble eh Mr Gibbon?” Now there was a historian :)

  4. I enjoy writing lists as well. I make short stories based in a fantasy world I’ve created-the characters are from my dreams, and oddly, as I write more about them, their characters reveal layers of complexity in my own mind that I didn’t realize were present when I dreamed them up.

    As I develop a more socially mature outlook, the stories gain psychological depth. I would call the more literary incarnations of hypergraphia good ways to explore your own mind; years later, you can look at what you wrote and be glad for the progress you’ve made.

  5. Sometimes I wish that I were hypergraphic. I cannot count the number of times I started to keep a diary, and failed to keep it up. As I get older, and my memory doesn’t work as well as it used to do, I do wish that I had detailed diaries of what I have done in the past.

  6. I didn’t know there was a word for that. I sometimes compulsively write lists that I don’t need, or invent reasons to create lists. Then I get embarrassed by my lists and destroy them so no one sees them.

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