The Writer and Obsession

Here is a measure of my personal experience with obsession: once with a man, once with a story, three times involving children, once involving a sibling.

There are five things I can tell you for sure about obsession.

1. It can be fatal. That’s the nature of obsession. It consumes you.

2. It’s not a quick death. Three of my obsessions continue and have endured for decades.

3. No one around you will ever really understand. They may have their own obsessions. Or they may be the kind of people for whom obsession has no place in the pantheon of emotion. You’re on your own with obsession. It’s a deeply personal affair.

4. It is also, make no mistake, a crazy thing—agony and ecstasy whipped together.  Get the juices of desire running and a typhoon blows through your life.

Now, does your writing—maybe not the kind that pays the bills or answers to the client, but the kind that is closest to you; the kind that is you—consume you like this?

The sheer act of it, perhaps? Or a great line, or a scene rendered perfectly? Or are you obsessed with what you think you can get out of it, immortality say, or justice, or beauty?

You won’t find me encouraging obsession or equating it willy-nilly with the production of good work. You can make a hash out of anything, obsessed or not.

But, if you are obsessed or obsessive by nature, one more thing is for certain: let’s hope it’s about your work, or your work will suffer.

Because obsession is total. It owns your heart and mind completely. And whatever is not the subject of your desire becomes relegated to the category of loveless labors. Just make sure your work doesn’t end up here, and you’re good.

Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo credits: two-faced figure by Shaun Wong; frustrated guy by Xpecto.

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  1. I love #4, because to my mind, obsessions often make no sense. Like when your best friend falls in love with the strangest human on the planet….I have had periods of time in my life when writing novels (my passion) became my obsession, and honestly, I loved it. Lately I’ve been more focused on the writing that pays the bills, of necessity,and I was going to blame my lack of fiction obsession on that. But when I think about it, the times I’ve gotten good and obsessed over novel-writing are when I’ve purposefully carved out time and energy for it. Hmmmm….

    • Obsessions are beyond sense. They feel more like raw power running throughout a body– as if, for example, a finger stuck in a socket. Can’t let it go; can’t live with it. Thanks for your comment. Always so thoughtful. Always glad to hear from you. Regards.

  2. belle

     /  November 4, 2011

    My obsessions can truly get out of hand. Ai yi yi!! Not a good writing day if my mind is racing in another direction.

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