Imagine the surprise and confusion of looking at your notebook, only to realize that you have no recollection of what you have just written. This is not a simple case of nodding off during a lecture and having your penmanship trail off the page. Nor is it an instance of falling asleep on your keyboard and then waking up to three pages of repetitive gibberish.
Psychography, or automatic writing, refers to the phenomenon of subconsciously writing material that the writer claims no prior knowledge of. Also known as automatic, or spirit writing, the source frequently cited for this occurrence is some external spiritual force providing guidance and inspiration. No claims of bona fide psychography have been documented, though speculation on its validity remains a rich and contentious area. Proponents believe that the writer is a medium for otherworldly forces attempting to communicate with the corporeal world, where every action is involuntary and under external spiritual control.
While the validity of automatic writing is questionable, there exists a non-pathological medical condition that may present itself to the untrained eye as psychography. This interesting phenomenon is termed hypergraphia and as the name implies, refers to the uncontrollable urge to write anywhere, about anything. Rather than transcribing messages from spiritual sources, individuals with this condition produce large amounts of material that typically reflects their personal interests, and as such, can range from an ongoing chronicle of their daily lives to multi-volume literary works.
The neurological basis for this ability has been documented as a consequence of dramatic re-wiring of the right and left sides of the brain following epileptic seizure in the temporal lobe, though other types of trauma such as cerebral infarct has been reported to cause hypergraphia. In perhaps one of the most compelling incidences of hypergraphic onset is the case of Dr. Alice Flaherty. Following a period of intense grief, she found she suddenly had the overwhelming urge to write down everything on paper, a condition which persisted for several months. From this example, it can be speculated that acute episodes of psychological/emotional stress can trigger this ability. What has been hypothesized by researchers is that in order to compensate for compromised brain function after a traumatic event, a signaling pattern is established where the “internal editing” function is either turned off or inaccessible, leading to an unrelenting, yet legible flow of written material.
So a torrent of words spilled onto paper for these individuals, then, is not the result of heightened mediumship or spiritual hijacking, but the involuntary release of innate human creativity. Why it takes the form of written word as opposed to some other medium is still not known, though it is interesting to note that some of history’s greatest authors had this condition. Observed episodes of automatic writing may simply have been a form of context-sensitive hypergraphia that individuals conditioned themselves, Pavlovian-style, to perform under certain conditions. Or alternatively, perhaps it is simply a meditative state that silences that “internal editor” and allows subconscious processing of information presented to them. What is clear from a cursory examination of this phenomenon, is that some human abilities which may border on paranormal are often rooted in a genuine medical condition which is still no less amazing.