writing, insomnia, and schizophrenia

After a particularly productive day of writing, John Steinbeck (in Journal of a Novel) conjectured as to the reasons why:

I think I have a large key. I did not sleep last night and I look forward to those nights of discovery. I have one about once a week. And after everyone is asleep there is such quiet and peace, and it is during this time that I can explore every land and trail of thinking. Conjecture. Sometime I will tell you about this in detail [speaking to his editor]. I split myself into three people. I know what they look like. One speculates and one critisises and the third tries to correlate. It usually turns out to be a fight but out of it comes the whole week’s work. And it is carried on in my mind in dialogue. It is an odd experience. Under certain circumstances it might be one of those schizophrenic symptoms but as a working technique, I do not think it is bad at all.

I can relate to important ideas coming at night in similar fashion, though have not advanced to the kind of (positively schizophrenic) dialogue mentioned above. Interesting.


Written by teppo

June 14, 2006 at 3:46 pm

Posted in books, teppo

4 Responses

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  1. […] Fantastic interview of poet Rosanna Warren in the Kenyon Review. Here’s a few lines on her schizophrenic (something we know a little about here at orgtheory) writing process: When I have my own free time, that’s when I’m in a process. I love to start slowly in the morning by reading the TLS while I’m sipping my tea and cranking up the slow wheels of my brain, and so slide into my study. From there I move to, sort of, initiatory reading. I like to read, I think of it as vitamins—read a letter by Flaubert or Henry James or somebody very intelligent to wake me up—and from there things start clicking a little bit. I’m a very magpie sort of writer. I depend a lot on my intense love for other writing. I often have a stack of poetry books near my desk, books that are for right now and are a source of electric current for me. […]


  2. As a writer diagnosed with schizophrenia (a REAL disease), it is upsetting to hear it being so belittled by people who don’t know anything about it, such as Steinbeck.

    If someone, such as Steinbeck, became like three people to write, that is not associated with schizophrenia. That would be Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). Schizophrenia is a pychotic disorder usually characterized by withdrawal from reality (autism), illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances.

    It is NOT a splitting of the personality. Personally, I don’t like Henry James. I don’t see any other schizophrenics reading him either. Not because he wasn’t a great writer, but it just doesn’t register with me.

    Some writers who did suffer from schizophrenia: Attila Jozsef, Dino Campana, Conrad Aiken (very probable), Ivan Blatny, Mark Vonnegut.

    Keys on a laptop are shiddy.

    Read Aiken’s short story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” about the descent into schizophrenia.

    No hard feelings though. However, Jesus said he did not come to bring peace, but division. Who’s side are YOU on.

    We are born only once.


    May Alice

    June 26, 2007 at 11:24 pm

  3. I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) and have just read James Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty, in which as a subplot, the holds that St Paul set Christianity off on the wrong track, claiming authority for his teachings deriving from his experience on the road to Damascus. I had come to this sort of conclusion before, but he makes a much more reasoned case for it. I have also read that Paul was psychotic. Now I have been looking at the epistles again, with a view to see if the man is off in some way.

    Came across your material while Googling schizophrenic writings, and would be interested in your comments on the above.


    George Heaton.



    George Heaton

    November 20, 2007 at 12:05 am

  4. Currently struggling through the possibility of schizophrenic enlightenment, the leverage given by Steinbeck fulfills my skeptical need for reassurance. Legitimizing an wandering mindset within the limited capcity of printer paper. Filtering the despised illogical forced empowered by the dismantled lining of my brain . Despite this displacement from reality, a conception can be delivered, and open for interpretation, disregarding the interpersonal basis of defied borders correlating with the disarrangement of reality, an promise of intuition. Allowing myself and others hurdled with intrusion of hallucinatory demonic embracement, an purposeful arguement. Though this array of unfocused initiation is bound for label by professional, it fuels the excessive search for clarity. A lack of immediate offering is ensured, an hunt is administered. Regaining an familiarity with oneself, and accompanying others idealogy with the introduction of your own. Presented as a duty, but ensuring an lack of abidance to this concept, once you’ve disarranged yourself in the process of writring.


    Jeff Pollick

    July 29, 2008 at 8:09 am

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