Parkinson’s Disease and Creativity

Hypergraphia: I Had to Write

I began writing the day after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). I wrote everyday. I wrote prose and poetry; songs and essays. I wrote about my days living with my new friend Parkinson. I wrote about music and sailing; politics and marketing. But in these early days I mostly wrote about PD. I was driven to write.

And in the days following my diagnosis I began work on several pieces of music created using a number of techniques including midi programming using software  sounds, loop sequencing of original and third-party loops, and live recording of bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals as well as a variety of world drums and percussion. The resulting music ranges from quirky pop to afro-beat noodlings  to middle-east inspired funk.   I would work into the night as post production editor painstakingly correcting intonation and timing  as my hands obeyed my brain less and less.

And In the weeks following my diagnosis, I began balancing rocks, creating temporary works that would confound passersby.  I am fascinated by balancing stones and the parallels they drew to my condition—stone face, the heavy weight of my feet, my difficulty with balance. I spent countless hours in nature, balancing. When I’m in nature I feel alive. I have a clarity.  I created other works of nature in nature, using twigs and leaves; water and ice.  But mostly I balanced rocks. Everywhere I went, all around me, I saw artistic opportunity.

In a fairly short period of time I had written hundreds of poems and had taken dozens of photos of my balancing rock sculptures.  I published two books (a book of my poetry called Substantia Nigra  and a photo essay of my balanced rock work entitled Life in Balance) and I had enough music for two or three CD’s. Additionally,  I had countless fragments of poems and essays, ideas for sculptures and music, storyboards for videos and several spec sheets for medical assistive devices .

I had what is known as hypergraphia, a behavioral condition characterized by the intense desire to write.  In my case, my intense desire included music and sculpture as well as writing. I’m not a behavioral neurologist so I’m not sure if the word hypergraphia covers all creativity but regardless, whatever you call it, it was intense. Often I would work through the night pulling as many as four all-nighters a week. These were exhilarating and exhausting days.

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