Jeff Glor talks to Daniel Smith about "Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety."
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Daniel Smith: First and foremost, this was a book I really wanted to read. I've struggled with acute anxiety for most of my life, and yet I'd never found a book that articulates what it feels like to live in a body hard-wired for that kind of experience. There were canonical literary memoirs about depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia, but to my great surprise there was nothing of that sort about anxiety. I felt it was important to write that book, not just to fill the gap but to better understand this essential, very distressing aspect of my life -- and of so many other people's lives.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
DS: That I enjoyed it. I've been writing professionally for more than a decade -- mainly magazine journalism and a kind of research-heavy nonfiction -- and I've always found the process to be singularly painful. Writing this book had its crappy moments, too (there are always crappy moments with writing), but overall I had a great deal of fun. It was a delight to work once again with narrative, and with humor. The difficulties inherent to the form and the tone invigorated me.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
DS: I'd probably be a performer of some kind, most like a stand-up comic. Not only am I a deep admirer of comedy and what it can accomplish, but surprisingly, I've always found being on stage (I did some performance in college) to be an anxiety-reducer. On stage, you're forced to forget about the past and the future; you're forced to exist in the moment. I love that. Of course, beforehand and afterward I tend to be quivering, gelatinous, hyperventilating mess.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
DS: I'm reading "Teaching a Stone to Talk," a collection of essays by the great Annie Dillard, whom I have the good fortune of interviewing for The Paris Review; an obscure academic book called "Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture," which a friend who is very interested in gender issues sent me; and this amazing, vivid, almost breathtaking book called "For Love of Insects," by the late naturalist and entomologist Thomas Eisner.
JG: What's next for you?
DS: As soon as things slow down, I'm going to start on a long-considered, long-planned novel. I'm also considering developing a stage show based on "Monkey Mind."
For more "Monkey Mind," visit the Simon and Schuster website.