The other morning I was listening to an early-morning radio show and heard an interview with someone who talks about and coaches people around what he calls a “creative obsession.” He talked about changing the paradigm we’ve all come to accept: instead of finding meaning in life, he says, we have the ability to infuse our lives with meaning, to make our actions and thoughts and work meaningful.
One of the examples he used was writing.
I sat and thought about this for some time after the program was over. I think that most of us write, not because we woke up one morning and decided, “Hey! I think I’ll be a writer,” but rather because the difficulty wasn’t in writing, it was in not writing. We write because we cannot not write — which is a pretty good definition of an obsession.
But as time passes, other issues become part of our obsession. We enter the ongoing, never-ending process of trying to get published: the submissions, the rejections, the submissions, the rejections, a stream that going on forever. And even when success comes, we need to enter yet another world, the world of marketing, of getting the word out about our work, of making sure that people actually read it.
The obsession, in short, becomes a business.
But here’s the thing. I got up especially early this morning, with plans to work on my novel-in-progress, and instead found myself all over the social media sites promoting two of my other novels. And wondered when it was that I stopped beginning my days with my creative self and started beginning them with my marketing self.
It’s essential, I think, to stand back from time to time and remember why we’re doing this. Refocus on the passion, the need to write, to tell a story, to communicate an emotion. Remember why we’re here.
For me, physical distance is always a way of getting grounded again. Even though I arguably live in paradise at the tip of Cape Cod, inspiration to any writer, I still go away several times a year, get away from my usual writing-space and my usual view and my usual routine. That’s why there are so many writer residencies always on offer all over the world: getting apart, becoming a stranger in a different land, helps us remember who we are where, as poet Miller Williams says, the spirit meets the bone. If you don’t travel, consider doing it.
Reading others’ tales of their passions and obsessions can also help you remember why you’re here. I keep a Toni Morrison quote on my writing-table: “I’m just trying to look at something without blinking,” she wrote, and it’s a reminder of my own calling in my own fiction.
Whatever you do — and you may be far more creative than I am in finding these ways to remember — make sure that you find a touchstone in some part of every day. It will keep you true to your calling, and true to yourself.
How else can you remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing? Share your thoughts here, and then you’ll be … beyond the elements of style!