Although the book is expressly about the way that experience becomes imbued with meaning through the experience of writing, Flaherty’s exploration of phenomena such as metaphor clearly extend beyond the experience of written text to many of the acts of interpretation that make everyday life comprehensible. Understanding of the processes involved in metaphor seems crucial to any analysis of motivation and interpretation. Flaherty’s interrogation of "excessive metaphor" as "one of the processes that goes wrong in delusions" on page 233, for example, seems to provide a useful handle on understanding the politics of interpersonal or intergroup relations – or the myriad acts of translation that lie in the way of clear understanding of our own or others’ motives:
Metaphor lies on a continuum between fact and delusion, and exactly where it lies is critical. Simile becomes metaphor, the "as if" disappears; "I suffer like Jesus" becomes "I am Jesus." Other slides into the delusional are less obvious: "I shall behave, for my own gain, toward that person over there as if she were less human, less real, than I am" is rapidly shortened to "That person is like an object," and again to "That person is an object."In my work as an ethnographer, trying to interpret the creative impulses and aspirations embedded in the mundane practices of everyday life, I often wonder if it might be useful (or even possible) to consider different ways that people experience meaning and metaphor in particular moods and situations. Like many of the tasks and skills involved in writing fiction, the ethnographic work of eliciting and interpreting narratives of everyday life is often relegated to the category of work that must be learned through experience (or brilliance) and can not be taught. But if the muses of inspiration are more likely to find us at our writing if we are seated comfortably at our desks, fingers on the page already, glass of water nearby, and a long evening ahead, surely there must be generative settings and moods that could act as aids in eliciting the meaningfulness of the metaphors that imbue our everyday locations with significance – the "limbic, primitive, tortured desire to communicate" embedded in the arrangement of the back garden or the parlor trinkets, even if that significance may handily evaporate under the stress of tasks to be done or the dry scrutiny of a social scientist’s interrogation.
Alice Flaherty (2004). The midnight disease: The drive to write, writer's block, and the creative brain. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.