The talent of obsessing

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:00 PM

It’s always interesting to me when people write about the creative process. I’ve never been entirely sure that you can write about something like that. How do you qualify it? It’s like knowing where ideas come from. I read a book years and years ago that talked about how easy it was to discover the creativity that’s buried deep inside each one of us. I don’t remember it specifically discussing talent, as if talent was incidental or assumed; as if being creative was what produced talent. The book was called Dancing Corn Dogs in the Night. It was written by movie producer Don Hahn, and it listed some of the forces that drive creativity, namely balance, chaos, persistence and truth. I think he also threw in chocolate and coffee. To the list, I’d add obsession.

There is something about the creative process that nurtures and feeds obsession. If you paint, you must paint. If you draw, you must hold pencils. If you make music, you must always be composing. If you write, everything is a story, a possibility, a potential scene, a headline, an intoxicating sentence that channels Dostoyevsky, transporting the reader.

Obsession has somehow become a bad word, and in the case of Calvin Klein, an over-powering fragrance, but I don’t think it is a bad word. I think it’s a word about focus, about drive, about the relentless pursuit to make the world better through the creative process.

A word cloud of the next paragraph

The dictionary defines obsession as the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image or desire. The word’s origins, dating to around 1510, are from the Latin obsessionem, meaning a blockade or siege. It was also discussed as the hostile action of an evil spirit, rather like possession but without the body and soul invasion. That’s pretty much right on. When I’m obsessed with something, it takes over my entire being. It’s all I can think of, all I want to do. I get that way about writing, but not enough. Because it scares me. Not the obsession, but the act of writing. And yet I do it everyday. Still, to be obsessed is to open myself up, to unzip the tight emotions and influences and thoughts and ideas and let them out to play. They race from my head, down my arm, through my fingers and out onto the keys of my keyboard where they miraculously appear on a word document. But putting them out there, allowing their early release from the prison of my imagination, sets me up for failure. It puts me out there for judgment.

I believe that’s why so many people don’t pursue their creativity and don’t channel their talent. It’s scary to put yourself out there in the world for review because what if the reviews are bad? And they will be, because I’m not good enough for them to be good. And what if they are good? Then I’d be terrified that I have only one good thing in me and then what if more is expected? What if I really do have talent? What if I really don’t?

This is also obsession. The need to obsess about the possibilities while obsessing about the realities, and then wondering which is which and what is what.

No wonder so many of history’s most creative souls were insane.

I have heard that the way through this is to simply do it, which for someone who’s obsessed is actually easy. I’m terrified to write so I write every day. I write while I sleep. I write because I have no choice. I keep a pad of paper and a lighted pen on the table next to my side of the bed in case I have an idea that absolutely must be written down before it escapes my mind and through the tips of my fingers because that’s it’s usual path, and if there’s nothing at the end of my fingers to catch it, where will it go? And if it leaves, maybe that was The One.

So I obsess. I believe that anyone who dreams obsesses, anyone who possesses the myth of talent obsesses because maybe that talent is real. Oh. My. God.

And maybe it is a myth after all.

So I obsess some more, and I write for myself and I read it myself and then every day I let a little tiny bit out into the world to have others read it, and then I obsess about what they think. But having an audience of only one can be lonely. Creativity should be shared, celebrated. As should the talent of obsessing. 

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live out loud

Comments (2) -

7/29/2011 5:18:22 AM #

I, for one, am so happy you play and share (so well) with others. I enjoy it immensely. Xoxo

Pam United States

7/29/2011 12:31:16 PM #

I agree with Pam whole-heartedly. And I respect the ability to break through the raw fear of actually being creative and letting it explode out into the world. What's the point of all this day to day crap without that? So I celebrate the obsession, too!

Bobbi Jankovich United States

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