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Oliver Sacks is a psychiatrist and neurologist best known for his collections of case histories from the far borderlands of neurological experience, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a[…]

Oliver Sacks discusses the intersection of writing and medicine.

Question: When did you become interested in writing?

Oliver Sacks:    I think I’d been interested in writing since when I was 12 or whatever. I’ve always kept journals, certainly, steadily for the last 60 years. I didn’t know how writing and science and medicine could come together or if they would ever come together, but they did seem to come together in the stories of patients in case histories. And I had in fact written my first book on migraine before I encountered these patients at Beth Abraham.

Question: Do you recommend journaling?

Oliver Sacks: I would recommend keeping a journal, period. I haven’t thought of it particularly as a happiness-producing device.

For myself, there’s always been a need to make some sort of narrative sense and to describe people and events and situations and feelings.  I need to keep a journal, partly as an act of clarification, and partly also because it allows my imagination and fantasy free reign, but somehow held within a sort of framework.

I hugely enjoy the act of writing, and I find it absolutely necessary, whether it’s keeping a journal or any other sort of writing. I’m certainly unhappy when I can’t write. So, for me, writing is a central form of happiness, not specifically keeping a journal.

I think anything, something creative is needed.

Recorded on: Sep 4, 2008