I woke up this morning with a word bouncing around my head. Just one solitary word. It kept reverberating around, feeling like it was bouncing from one part of my brain to the other.
That word was Obsession.
Such a powerful and scary word.
the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
After looking up the definition, I bounced around different Wikipedia sites looking at different forms of obsession (There are a lot out there!)
Before long, I realised I had been looking up obsession for almost an hour and a half, and still had not got out of bed!
I finally got up, made some tea and started to think of it in the terms of creativity and writing.
As a writer, or anyone in a creative pursuit, you have an obsession to be able to create. That obsession drives you to write the extra chapter, rework the book (again), until you are happy it represents what is in your mind.
Obsession, in my mind, seems to come in three forms; Positive, Negative and Quirks.
But is it all good?
Positives to Obsession
Here are just some obsession quotes I could find:
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.
Obsession led me to write. It’s been that way with every book I’ve ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge.
The three quotes above show three famous people who have used their own obsession to their advantage. But in the case of Claude Monet, he is openly admitting that his obsession is both a joy and a torment.
The majority of people who have created their own fortune have had an obsession which would fuel them, to strive to complete more tasks, to keep working when most would give up.
But when does obsession go from being a good thing, and become a bad thing?
Negatives to Obsession
In 1981, John Hinckley Jr. was a man obsessed with Jodie Foster. He had watched Taxi Driver repeatedly, followed Jodie Foster around the country, even enrolled in the same college as her. Failing to gain her attention, he decided that the only way to impress her was to assassinate the American President.
Golfers have been known to leave the game because their obsession with their swing is ruined with small muscle spasms. The technical term is Focal Dystonia or called the “yips”
With this condition, playing at the highest level becomes almost impossible. It affects all sports, even Snooker. Stephen Hendry the multiple world champion retired saying he had been suffering from the yips for 10 years.
And then there are the quirks. This could range from a slightly odd obsessions with cleanliness, germs, to the downright weird.
I took a few examples from this site:
James Joyce was obsessed with farts. More specifically women’s farts.
He wrote hundreds of letters to his lover, Nora (who later became his wife), and spared no expense in the detail of what he wanted the two of them to do when they were together again. But oddly, he seemed to be most obsessed with her farts. It’s a repeated theme in his letters – here’s one example: “I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have.”
Charles Dickens was obsessed with morgues. He would hang out in morgues viewing the dead bodies, sometimes for days,
“I am dragged by invisible force to the morgue,” he even admitted. He loved to go down to the city morgue and would just hang out there for days on end, watching new dead bodies come in and observing the people there working on them. He referred to the whole ordeal as “the attraction of repulsion.”
Obsession is a tricky thing to categorize. One man’s obsession, is another man’s vice. Writers who disregard their life, health and family in pursuit of creating their masterpiece, is seen as many as a bad member of society.
John Lennon, leaving his wife and his son Julian, to further his creativity, and join his muse Yoko Ono, was good for his creativity, but bad for his social relationship as a father.
As I mentioned in a previous blog (Drugs – Do They Fuel Creativity?), Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, in a 6 day cocaine binge. Obviously a fabulous addition to literary history, but not a good example of how to write!
Obsessions as long as they can be controlled are good. They give you that something extra which takes you from being normal to being special.
But the question should be asked: Is an obsession, an obsession, if it can be controlled?