Is writing hazardous to your health? A list of injuries…

writing injuriesGeorge Orwell

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about writing injuries….

Back when I worked in the newspaper industry we used to joke that the worst writing injury we could sustain would be a paper cut. Ha! In addition to the daily threats of alcohol poisoning and emphysema, we were also at risk of a whole bunch of other conditions I’d never imagined…

A recent blog post on the website Literary Hub, explored this topic in an Oct. 25/17 post headlined: “Six famous writers injured while writing.” The writers:

  • George Orwell (working too long writing his book 1984 leading to TB.)
  • Herman Melville (eye spasms, anxiety attacks, and debilitating back pain from writing Moby Dick.)
  • Giacomo Leopardi (debilitating scoliosis, made worse by writing.)
  • Honoré de Balzac (caffeine poisoning from too much coffee.)
  • Ayn Rand (reliance on Benzedrine which, in turn, brought on a nervous breakdown.)
  • Franz Kafka (laryngeal tuberculosis brought on by overwork.)

Some of this list seems, to me, to be a bit of a reach, (listicle writing gone crazy?) but I appreciated the chance to re-read Orwell’s dyspeptic view of writing: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.”

My thanks to Ben Ziegler for alerting me to this blog post via Twitter.


Posted October 30th, 2017 in Writing about writing

  • yehudit

    As a nurse, i have difficulty crediting a case of Tuberculosis to overwork. Now that we know it is caused by a particular Mycoba terium, we can’t say either Orwell’s or Kafka’s disease was a work-related injury. And both men were dead before appropriate antibiotic therapy was developed.

    • I agree. I think the writer of the article bent the truth a little too vigorously to support her claim. Still, I found the piece amusing…