The Finer Points of Obsession

After writing my last post about poetry and fiction, and after referencing The Triggering Town, I began to think about the things we writers use to fuel our endeavors.

Our obsessions, if you will.

For writers, we use all we can get. Take an honest and close look at us, and you will find we are a simple sort of people. Meaning that we do not require much to do what we love.

Yes, there are new writing softwares every year, books on writing, workshops to hone certain skills, but even if you strip all of that away, you will not strip us of our joy, our fuel, our obsessions.

The world is our toolbox, and if we took an honest and close look at ourselves we will find that we draw upon that more than any book or software. We draw upon the small things, the tiny details the common man overlooks or disregards. In objects, or pictures we find a passion that will not let go of us, thankfully. They continuously tug on our hears and imagination.

We draw from the people around us, as well. When we see people, we do not see another face, we see a story with feet. We see a history, a struggle, and, sometimes, we even see armor hidden beneath casual exterior. Sometimes we see heroes.

My point is that writers don’t have just ideas, we have obsessions, fire spurring us forward, changing the way we see the world.

I understand the connotation that obsessions tend to have, especially with those who will assign morality to anything and everything. But let me provide something to define what I mean and clear the air.

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”–Rainer Maria Rilke

So in other words, obsessions are the reasons we write. They are the things we see when we close our minds. For some it could be distant lands, sometimes it’s a simple object that cultivates all sorts of creative thoughts. It sneaks into our writing any chance it gets.

Other writers are obsessed with topics. For example, I once attended a Q&A with poet, Edward Hirsch, where he explained that a great amount of his poetry stemmed from his struggle and obsession with insomnia. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. So through his obsessions, he yielded some amazing poems on the topic.

Obsession, however, can come and go. One year, or day, it could be one thing then it changes the next. But they never leave without leaving a mark. A lasting impression.

But enough of generalities. Enough of the abstract.

I will be plain and simple. Obsessions are essential to a writer. No matter what genre you write. It is a tool and fuel. It keeps the imagination running. It creates that special world where you understand nothing, but everything understands you. Obsessions, for a writer, is building a home. A safe haven. There, once the house is complete, you can yield your best work.

Going back to the quote above, obsession is the reason to write, and without a reason, you have nothing but empty sounds. Screeches without any articulation. Simply put, words without reason are static noises crowding up the airwaves.

We need reasons to write, even if they are absurd reasons like looking for a reason, or just because you have a love for language. When we invest ourselves in our reasons, our obsessions, we find that our writing has a purpose, and purpose gives wing to whatever you do. Reasons and meaning breeds passion, and, with passion, you can go the furthest.

Personally, I have wavered here and there in pursuing and holding on to my obsessions, which, in turn, has affected my passion for writing. But I have found that memory is a great tool in reminding yourself when you were on the right track and how to get back. Not all of the past is bad. So I have had to remind myself of my reasons for writing. Why did I lose my mind writing in the first place, and how can I continue doing that?

It is no hidden fact that you have to fight for the things you love, and it is no different with writing. We have to fight to keep that flame in our hearts lit. Between full-time jobs, maintaining relationships, dealing with life’s situation, and managing reality, we run the risk of losing touch with what we love, what gives our life some meaning and keeps us moving.

Another tendency we have, especially myself, is to bridle that obsession or passion. I tend to worry if it’s too much for people. I know that a lot of people fear the eyes and minds of others, especially when it comes to writing. We feel they will not understand it and love it the way we do, so they will inaccurately judge our work. However, I will argue that none of that matters in the end. Yes, if you go the traditional publishing route, your publishing career rests in hands of others, but they are smart creative people. Regardless, if you have your pen,  your obsessions and reasons, then you have all you need.

Allen Ginsberg once said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” If you think about it, he is entirely correct in this statement. You need to write for your obsessions, your passions, your reasons, yourself. Only then will you find your voice, and what a strong voice it will be.

Stepping into the public eye shouldn’t change anything. You are the same writer, just in a different room.

With that being said, this is not an excuse to not accept criticism, because that is helpful. Only a fool rejects helpful advice.

I understand that is post is definitely gravitating towards stream of consciousness. So let me go ahead and boil it down.

Obsessions provide fuel for our writing.

Obsessions give us reasons, therefore purpose, which brings passion.

We have to fight for our obsession and our writing.

Obsessions should never be bridled.

We have to write for ourselves and not concern ourselves with writing for others.

It is easy to lose our way and forget what made us turn to writing in the first place. And I guess the simple answer in turning us back to how we felt in the beginning is to find that original love, that beginning spark.

Find the things you love, those tiny details, those obsessions no one else understands. Once they see how much love and passion is in your writing, trust me, they learn to love it as well…just nowhere near as much as you, but that’s okay.

I will leave you with a quote that impacted me greatly when thinking about this.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”–Franz Kafka

What are some of your obsessions, or your thoughts on the role obsessions? Or even your experience in rediscovering your love for writing? I am sucker for discussions.

Thank you for reading, my friends, and, as always, good luck and godspeed.




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