My name is XXX, and I am reading and enjoying FOREST FOR THE TREES. I was surprised to find that you referred to the link between psoriasis and writing a few times in your book, especially in relation to John Updike’s reflection on the subject. I was just wondering if you or loved ones you know suffer from it, or what compelled you to include it in your book? I am a psoriasis sufferer and a writer, and I’ve never before seen a reference to them in one place.
Sinerely, NAME WITHHELD
Thank you for your letter. Updike’s piece about his psoriasis was a revelation to me. I had written a poem called “My Life as A Rash,” in graduate school. While I only briefly suffered from psoriasis’ ugly cousin exzema, I had the very strong suspicion that rashes were a big problem for writers. And after I started working with writers (first as an editor and later an agent), I saw that most writers enjoyed a wide array of physical symptoms (both real and somewhat hypochondriacal). Skin eruptions were only one manifestation of a writer’s agony, though a particularly cruel and uncomfortable one given the “thin skin” and necessary sensitivity of the writer. I’ve seen a lot of self-mutilation over the years, fingers that looked like bloody stumps. I’ve seen faces picked over, hair pulled out, massive weight gain and loss, teeth grinding, migraines, back problems, OCD, agoraphobia, and insomnia. Show me a writer and I’ll show your someone who suffers either secretly or like John Updike, leaving flakes of skin in his wake.
Anyone care to share their symptoms? The weirder the better.