Tag Archives: Writing

What are your writing obsessions?

I’ll admit, I’m ripping this one off an old college professor. In a poetry writing course some years back, she asked us to consider our “poetic obsessions.” She even brought in some of her own compulsions from her office within the same building. Vintage advertisements from a younger America, books with brown, image-less hard covers and yellowing pages, china cat figurines with chipped ears. She spread it all out on the long conference table. Told us to sift through it, get inspired, write a poem. “We all have our own obsessions,” she said, “obsessions which fuel our writing, whether we’re aware of it or not. Go home and scan your bedrooms, work rooms, or other places you may sanctify. Examine your bookshelves, closets, dresser drawers. What seems to come up over and over again? These are your obsessions. And I’ll bet you anything that from time to time, they inexplicably show up in your writing.”

I was eager to come home and observe my space for my obsessions. I went straight to my office, and just as my professor said, I noticed some patterns. Flowers, for one thing. Fake flowers. Feather flowers, glass flowers, plastic flowers, wooden flowers. On my desk, shelves, end tables, etc. Then there was my lighthearted fixation on the occult: astrology books, psychic books, palm reading cards. I also have a greeting card with a painted fairy balancing the scales of justice on her shoulders. LIBRA it says in fancy font across the bottom. I have posters, calendars, and books on Elvis Presley. Numerous more books on rock ‘n roll, and Rolling Stone compilations, etc.  I was surprised to find I had more than one book on England–some simply images of the countryside, some tour guides, and some chronicled histories, including an anthology on the kings and queens.

My photo albums are chock full of pictures of myself as a child. On an antique step ladder that I use for decorative purposes are photographs of my grandparents as children. I have another framed picture of my father and uncle as young boys. Then there are the lighthouses–tiny knick knack versions of course. My grandfather–formerly of the Coast Guard–was an avid collector. I also have an image of a lighthouse I took with my digital camera on the background of my computer. And cats…paintings, books, and a humorous tapestry that says, “The more I get to some people, the more I like the cat.” Plus two real live ones that like to rub against my face as I write.

I could go on (Thomas Kinkade desk calendar, prints, and collectors’ coffee table books), but I’ll stop and say this: At one point or another, all of these things have turned up in my work. We all write for various reasons, and sometimes we get too caught up in the ‘business’ side of it–publications, queries, conferences, platform building, etc. and while these elements of living the writing life are both important and thrilling, I think sometimes we forget that writing is a subliminal, unconscious process that can help us connect to our hidden depths, those things that make us who we are. Writing is channeling, it’s drudging up the dirt, and these ‘obsessions’ of ours are symbols, or keys have you, that unlock what we consider to be important.

So I’m interested…what are YOUR obsessions, and do they, perhaps inadvertently or not, reveal themselves in your writing?

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Filed under Inspiration, Prompts & Writing Ideas, The Writing Life, Why We Write, Writing Details, Writing Process, Writing Tips

Just Do It

I just finished a first draft of a short story. I love the after-feeling of writing–imagine the way the body feels after exercise; that’s how my brain feels after writing. These days I believe heavily in forcing myself to write. It used to be if I was having an off-day, I’d cut myself some slack, wait for the creative ebb to re-take its course.

Not anymore. Now I force myself to sit down four times a week and write at least 1,000 words. Then I’m off the hook–unless I want to write more, which I sometimes do. I’ve found that often, once I start writing the so-called inspiration finds its way.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have off-days, and yes, there have been times when I’ve broken my own promises to write. I keep at it though. That’s the ONLY way it gets done. I learned this a long time ago, but only understand the validity of it now, in recent times. That is precisely how I managed to write a draft of a 108,000 word novel (yeah, probably needs some cutting). People have asked me how I managed to do that with a full-time job. The only answer is, I just did. A few hours here, a few hours there. I made it work. And I kept at it. I typed and typed until it was all done. Now I just have to clean it up…which to me is excruciating. That’s the hard part. The revision. The writing is fun.

Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” I used to think that ideas for stories would just pop up when I least expected them. If that were the case I’d have no stories. It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, us intrinsic types have to physically come up with an idea. It only needs to be a notion. Creativity will take over eventually. But a true intrinsic will need to seek out the fuel from it’s source.

This story I just completed? I decided to come up with a new idea for a story. So, one day while I monitored the students in my class using computers for an assignment, I thought up the story. The characters, the setting, the plot, everything. When I went to write it, it spilled forth. I reached for inspiration, and it arrived.

I only stress this because I’ve learned how crucial it is. If you will write, then you must. Write, that is.

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Filed under Breaking Through, Inspiration