Graphomania

October 01, 2021 - 7 min read

Productivity gurus have taken everything from us, perverted or romanticised.  Activities such as walking, journaling, reading, breathing, tweeting, talking, fucking and others have acquired utterly utilitarian values and become secret ingredients to the rapturous recipe, the Holy Grail of creativity and wealth, a part and a rule of the hustle, the hustle able turn you from a layabout dumbass into a modern incarnation of Thoth. Don’t read it as me saying you should stop engaging with these activities. Read it as me saying that taking a misbegotten red pill is rather fraught and only leads to the Sisyphean cycle of doing your atomic habits.

Hustleporn connoisseurs reached with their hairy palms things we do, books we read and even words we use. Remember how great was “adding vlue” and every day felt special? Remember when “cntent” did not mean everything but nothing like it does now? Oh, wait, “l*verage”, yes. A good one. Words and phrases get devoided of meaning when overused. Some cults, communities and individuals have to put an embargo on these words because they have started causing people to experience a rather bizarre buzzword-bulimia.

But what about 'become prolific'? This phrase hasn't yet been banned, in my brain, at least.

The problem with it is, however, like any unnuanced advice, it lacks details. See, as a writer, when you start writing online, meeting other writers, talking about writing, reading about writing, writing about writing, you will likely be advised to become prolific if you want to get a mythical success breathing over your shoulder (right or left, decide for yourself).

I wondered what does it imply, what should I do to become prolific? A dictionary says, prolific means "marked by abundant inventiveness or productivity". In the writing world, it translates into, I suppose, writing a lot, producing a lot of written work, publishing it, at least to signal that you are being productive. But should this prolificacy be natural or laborious? What about the intention behind it, the quality of work, the quality of ideas?

I know a guy who was prolific indeed. His name was Joseph Goebbels. Heard of him? He typed sixteen thousand pages of texts about WWII, claiming himself the main historian of the war, of course. He was, as we call it in Russian, a graphomaniac.

The word 'graphomania' is not of Russian origin and exists in many languages, including English, but I rarely stumble upon it. In Russian, it has rather a negative meaning and is used to describe an obsessed and often prolific writer whose work is banal or even nonsensical due to lack of talent and creative abilities. Such writers do not leave their work marinating on their hard drives but aim to maximise the amount of what gets published. They neglect commonly adopted aesthetic criteria of what literature, or "high brow" literature, is and are often claimed to be "bad" writers by "good" writers.

One neat example of such an author is Victor Kolosovsky. He lived and wrote during the beginning of the 20th century and got a strong reputation as a graphomaniac, the worst poet of the Russian emigration community, and "the utter genious from the other side". Yet, he claimed himself a reincarnation of Alexander Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet (for context, kind of a Russian Shakespeare). In 1927, Kolosovsky published another 16-page book called The History of the World in Poems. The name printed on the cover was "V. Kolosovsky – A. S. Pushkin."

Below, you can find one fine piece I picked among many and kindly translated for you. It sounds just a little bit more horrible in Russian, though he made some attempts to rhyme omitted in my quick and dirty translation. So, pardon me in advance.

"I will not think long, And I'll write the history of the world, Stop reading 'Tatiana', Please pay attention to this! So, I begin again To write for the ages to come. You remember me, don't you, My dear friends? I am an honest man: I've been here for two centuries. So I'll write now About what awaits you. Of course, it's important to know, And so I have decided to write about it."

Perhaps, Kolosovsky was a punk, a rebel, a proto disaster artist, who dared to ditch the rules and conventions and genuinely loved writing poetry as he imagined it. Perhaps, he had some issues, though (he thought he had the spirit of Pushkin in him, remember?). Yes, graphomania could be a result of mental problems, such as hyper compensation of the inferiority complex, where the 'mania' part becomes a literal way of identifying oneself as a great writer. There is also erotographomania, which is a case of graphomania where a person cannot stop writing love letters either to get attention or as an act of erotic stimulation. In the other case, typomania is an obsession with seeing your name on a publication, printed or, in our digital surreality, rendered into HTML. There is also Kandinsky–Clérambault syndrome, in which case graphomaniacs claim that some external forces, such as spirits or aliens, don't leave them a single choice but to write.

There’s an opinion that graphomania can take on epidemic proportions when society gets a good level of general well-being, high isolation of individuals, and absence of global dramatic events. In other words, when people get bored alone at their homes, they are supposed to start pecking keyboards more often. Ah, gods, I wish that was the case, though. Now, the amusement industry is elevated to heights when you have time for anything but become a graphomaniac. Although the internet allows everyone to have a blog and follow other blogs (see this blue beaconing button below? click it) and a good proportion of people actually do that, we cannot call it a graphomania pandemic, not yet, and, sadly, it will never happen. There are other things to do, most of them are easier and require no thinking, and in fact, they are more popular than writing despite the writing is free.

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For hustleporn connoisseurs, however, writing, one of the most praised activities in productivity and value-adding business, has not become an internal mania, an existential urge to spill your inky thoughts on paper or encode them into a text file.

No.

For them, it has become another secret ingredient for success, driven, as it seems to me, by wet dreams of abstract better-self, better-seller or better-hustler. These days, many write not because we want to say something, not because they want to share ideas and create a discussion, not because they want to make money with writing, not because they want to become famous writers, and not because they want to see their name printed on paper or rendered on HTML of a fancy web publication, but because gurus told them. They told them to write and how to do it, hence they, as true monkeys, mimic their behaviour without questioning and without making at least a visibility of effort to understand why.

Many don't write for themselves anymore. They either write for gurus or for everyone hence no one, looking for mass appeal and a higher follower count. For many people, the answer to “Why write?” is somewhat beyond being material, utilitarian, or existential.  They are prolific in making digital noise hoping to get noticed one day. They put all the power of literary impotence, stay persistent and try to take a few more megs of a digital matter to become mentally crippled veterans of the attention war. There's no aspiration for them to make something great even if it ends up being terrible. They prefer being prolific in staying mediocre and, in the end, we are drowning in a shit ocean of content and blablabla. I'm starting to get sick of this whole ongoing discussion.

Let’s go back to Viktor Kolosovsky. The difference between him and those who prolifically write to make noise and please robots is simple. Kolosovsky was a true graphomaniac. He lacked competence but his attempts were genuine and he believed in what he did. He was crazy, however, he wasn't afraid of who he was, regardless of public opinions and poetry traditions. Graphomaniacs write about emotions, ideas, experiences, stories, and their intention comes from a trembling soul or a thirsty mind. Regardless of what they write – a poem, a novel or a scientific monograph – they are, again, they pursue it genuinely. They do it because they are obsessed with it and not because a dozen of dead-behind-the-eyes influencers told them to do it and now they all want what others do, or what successful people say they do (every day, by the way, won’t work otherwise). Perhaps, they lack talent but they write for humans, at least for themselves. In that sense, they, "bad" writers, are the same in their attitude to the craft as "good" writers are.

I wish I was obsessed with writing so much that my passion became almost irrational or insane, I wish my broadcasting muscles were itching every day, I wish to see my name printed, I wish I could unbrainwash everything I know about cntent, mtrics and v*lue. I would rather be pretentious in my attempts if it helps me to stay in harmony with the innermost self, get rid of the impostor inside and just fucking write whatever I must write, whatever I want to, whatever I need.

I wish I was a graphomaniac. Perhaps, I should just choose to be one.

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