For a writer I certainly don’t do a lot of writing anymore, then again I’ve never felt less epileptic in my life. Writing sets off epilepsy which creates more writing. The more the epilepsy, the more creative the writing. The more creative the writing, the more the epilepsy. The more the epileptic writing, the more the brain damage. Oops. Thus, sidelined, I just kick back and watch all the shit go down. These are marvelous times for watching the shit go down. Glorious times, even. Watching history happen from our little urban forested haven. Lots of time to read and watch old movies. The less the epilepsy, it turns out, the more the reading. I’m wending my way though stacks of turgid volumes. Don’t even ask. The constant writing in my head got in the way when I was trying to read. It’s good to have the fountain of words turned off. I can listen to people now and not rewrite what they are saying. I can listen to music now and not hear it as writing. I can look at the landscape and not see it as stories. I can listen to birds sing and not hear language. I just hear birds singing.
I’ve been asked about this quite a few times and blew it off, but here goes.
I don’t know where my writing ideas come from. They seem to happen on their own. I don’t think about writing when I’m not writing. And there’s no inspiration or spark or preparation. I just start typing and essays come out, fully formed. Everything you read by me is first draft and unedited. I check for typos, homonyms, dropped words. I may go back and alter the punctuation slightly. On rare occasions one of my long trumpet solo sentences may be too long and I’ll bust it up, but that involves merely deleting a word or a comma, no rewriting. That’s it for editing.
I try to keep everything simple, I never put anything in quotation marks, try and avoid parentheses, and don’t boldface, italicize or underline. I have a very spare palette of punctuation—commas, periods, ellipses and em dashes, and I use exclamation points and question marks as little as possible. I try to do everything with words and pauses.
I write almost everything in an implied second person. That is, I write in the first person but through the eyes of the reader. And I avoid adjectives and adverbs whenever possible, and emphasize verbs. Nearly everything I write is in terms of action or movement.
And like this, the things always seem to know when to end on their own. So I let them finish. I leave a lot of them hanging, unresolved, something I picked up from bossa nova. But I never go beyond where the thing ends, I never try to outthink the writing.
That’s it, without getting into all the linguistics and neurology.
[This is from 2010, and I just found it buried on BrickWahl.com. This reads so epileptic to me now.]
Last night words kept me up, some piece coming together that I couldn’t shake. It developed paragraph by unwritten paragraph inside my skull till finally it completed itself and let me sleep after two in the fucking morning. That happens a lot. When my med levels are off it happens more. I dreamed another story, dreamed I was writing it, till it woke me around 5 am. I laid there sleepy with this fucking story going through my head. A ridiculous 5 am story…I never use 5 am stories. Men are crazy at 5 am. Maybe you’ve noticed.
No writing today, nothing. No emails today, but this one. Hopefully no stories tonite. I wish I knew why that happens, but it’s always happened. Just words, man. It’s like I’m practicing. Working things out. Well, not me practicing, but it, the language. It sits up there in our brain, an actual thing, and it sometimes make us do things that not to our advantage. This isn’t LSD talking…it’s actually neuro-linguistic theory, one rather difficult to grasp. It’s just too weird. Anyway, this language thing gets stirred all up in there round that hole in my brain in the Broca’s region and doesn’t give a flying fuck about what the rest of the body needs, or wants. Namely sleep. But tonite I sleep. I promise.
I’ve heard of musicians tormented by the music in their heads. It’s the same thing, I bet. The music being created incessantly and the poor bastard whose brain contauins it wishes it wasn’t there. Creativity, it’s wildly overrated.
Anyway I have more to do before I go home. Then I watch a hockey game and we order a pizza and drink beer and talk and I go to sleep.
Not going to delete the blogs, tho’ I’d love to. It’s not the solution, tho’ it seemed like a great terrible idea at the time. Seriously, I was all ready to get rid of 90% of everything I’d ever written to reduce clutter. How’s that for a revolutionary act? The Pol Pol approach to website management. It would have been so easy too….
The problem for me is that what’s left of my epileptic brain must have everything as spare and orderly and uncluttered as possible or it gets thoroughly discombobulated, and dealing with one blog, let alone six, is as discombobulating and un-uncluttered as anything. Sort of like that sentence. There’s just too much there on a blog, too many options, too many zillions of words a link away. Too much past thinking sparked to life again. Stuff that didn’t bother me just a couple years ago is a problem now. I was planning to deal with my own hypergraphic literary output like I’ve dealt with the rest of my life, by minimizing everything. Part of my excruciatingly dull mellow epileptic lifestyle therapy. Which works, actually. Destroying all that writing would have been quite epileptically therapeutic. Nor would it have bothered me much. Things would be much simpler, and I can always just write more. After all, it’s not about the writing, it’s about writing. What’s written doesn’t matter, but writing it does. That’s hypergraphia in a nutshell, a phrase I can’t stand, but it is.
It also shows that I see all this writing as a symptom of my epilepsy. For instance, I’ve had a mild bug these past couple days. A very mild bug, one of those things I’d never notice except that, as bugs will, it’s kept the liver busy dealing with it and interferes in the metabolization of my seizure meds, reducing their effectiveness, which leads to an increase in synaptic overstimulation which invariably increases symptoms of hypergraphia. Thus lots of posts on Facebook and a sudden increase in blog activity. When I look though my blog I can see the epilepsy. I can see it in the long paragraphs, in the sharing of absurdly detailed personal discussions, in the self obsession, and in words like un-uncluttered. Neurologists have asked me questions about my writing because it is such a classic symptom.
When the bug departs the posts will slow, the blogs will see me only occasionally, my mind will not be awash in language. And over a lifetime I’ve learned not to give in to epileptic whims. So no purging of the blog. It was fun to think about, but I’ll have to think up something else.
Thought I was writing a lot. Lots of tweets, really well written tweeted miniature essays. Plus viciously smartassed snarks to make the Trump supporters cry. One really long email that came out of nowhere remembering stuff I hadn’t thought of in years. Messaging. Lots of words. A froth of words. Ideas in Brownian motion. Stuff not getting done but lots of words. Like this.
Then a brain twinge, zing, like a plinked piano wire. Another. Recognition. I’d missed a dose of spazz meds. Funny how that works.
I’ve been on cold meds on and off for a few days, mostly on. This morning in the LA Times I came across an unusually lyrical passage for a newspaper and I read it aloud to my wife. It was about oil pumps and mechanical giraffes and I just dug it to death. She nodded, pretending to listen. The passage flowed nicely as I spoke it instead of coming out word salad. It was the first thing I’d been able to read aloud in a year at least. I tried it again later with another paragraph in the Times, reading aloud to myself. I got through the whole paragraph coherently. Then another. Then I tried an essay (“Citizen Kahn”) I wrote yesterday. The words flowed mostly, stumbling just a little, not enough to annoy a listener. I read the whole thing aloud in my big silverback dulcet tone, no stops or umms or repeated words repeated or missing verbs or cursing and confusion and stopping and giving up. No stuttering on their and they’re but not there. By the end I could feel the spazzy electric buzz in my jaw so didn’t push it any further. But still—there’s must be something in cold meds that suppresses some of my epileptic symptoms. Not all of them. It doesn’t stop hypergraphia (hence this) but it did let me read aloud. Groovy. I can swill cold meds and go to beatnik coffee houses and read my weirdest shit to wide eyed college coeds. Or I can read aloud and nod off in front of the television in an antihistamine stupor. Sounds like weed, actually, except NyQuil doesn’t make you hungry. Or horny. Or giggling at the stupidest things.
Dig that crazy long paragraph. Time to stop writing.
Hypergraphia is when you post seven or eight blog essays in one day and it’s still not enough. I just nodded out at the keyboard and left a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz that went on for hundreds and hundreds of lines. It’s not the first time, it’s just the most onomatopoeic.
OK, now comes the classic epileptic writer’s conundrum…do I let the thing keep me writing? Or just take my overdue meds and go to bed? Alas, no Fyodor Dostoevsky me, so off to bed.
But epileptic writers really do learn to manage the symptoms, a little hypergraphia being a handy thing. It takes years to master it, though. Certainly one of the less studied aspects of the condition. Or even admitted to. Indeed, the very fact that I’m writing this at all is a sign I’d better take my Tegretol. Sometimes, though, I think about Dostoevsky and wonder how many novels have been lost to seizure medications. Or epileptic artists, the Van Goghs, how many paintings have been lost to seizure medicines as well? Though less ears have been lost. There’s always an upside.
And on that note, goodnight….
Funny thing, epilepsy, its demands pretty much control your life. Especially when you suddenly can’t take one of your meds for a week. This blog was put on hold…I stayed in, low stress, no driving, taking too much of the other pill (It jacks up testosterone levels…how’s that for a side effect?) and watching comedies all week. Laughter, as Readers Digest used to say in bathrooms all across America, is the best medicine.
I also avoided writing. Writing and epilepsy are interlinked in me, the hole in my brain is right smack in the language center, the neurons are all crazy there, abuzz with excess electro-chemical energy, making words and sentences and chatter come out in torrents. You learn to contain the chatter and get a handle on the torrent of prose. I do have a couple pieces on the blog somewhere that are pure epileptic energy, endless paragraphs, ideas whipping about with near Brownian motion. I read them now, thoroughly medicated, and they look nuts. A pal of mine loves the stuff, though. Reads like a beatnik on speed writing Roman history, he said. I assume it was a compliment. Inevitably, though, epileptic writing leaves me sick–literally nauseous, dazed, out of it. A Sonny Rollins review once put me to bed it left me so ill. I feel like that and wonder how the hell Dostoevsky managed so many perfect novels, each as long as the Manhattan phone book. The poor bastard must have been sick all the time. I know I’ve avoided writing another piece like that Sonny review. If I feel myself getting that deep I pull back, make a wisecrack, take it down a notch or two in intensity. I don’t like to write myself sick.
Anyway, on Tuesday I was finally able to take Tegretol again. It’s the champagne of bottled medicines, you know, quite the luxury at over three bucks a pill. Within a couple hours I could feel it, in the long neurons that run the length of our arms and legs. It’s like they mellow out. That’s what Tegretol does, it settles down the neurons, or settles down their synapses anyway, which spark and cause the potassium in the neuron (aka the nerve cell) to flip sides and fire the synapse that sparks the next neuron to keep the impulse going. Too much of this activity you seize, not enough, say to your heart muscle, you die. Tegretol keeps everything at a sweet medium.
We drove around doing a bunch of chores on Tuesday (I’d really missed driving) and once our tasks were out of the way I sat down at the computer and began writing. And writing. And writing. All these pent up words came pouring out. I just couldn’t stop writing. I kept returning to my desk and out popped another story. I was like a blueballed teenager in a room full of cheerleaders, frantically releasing what had been pent up for too long. Just writing and writing, sometimes all night long into the morning. A few hours sleep and then back at it. Hell, that’s what this piece is. Just some silly essay about an epileptic’s hypergraphic world, in case you were wondering where the hell all these stories are coming from, not that any of you actually were. This is just writing for its own sake. That hole in my brain has a strange power over me sometimes. But it’s been there as long as I’ve been alive, so I’m used to it. Consider it a blessing, a reader told me. No, I said, I consider it a pain in the ass. And then I wrote about it.