How do you feel about writing? I’m certain you love to create using words on a page to tell a story no one else in the entire world has ever written. Just think, your novel is one of a kind, completely and wholly unique, and if every living person from now until the end of time wrote a book, not one of those writers could duplicate yours.
Astounding, isn’t it? So, how did you accomplish this feat? How did the Old Master Painters of the Renaissance manage to produce such outstanding pieces, or how did the Classical Musicians between 1750 and 1815 write music which still stands today as the best?
The simple fact is that these artists long-gone were passionate about their chosen craft, and perhaps I’ll go as far to say most were obsessive. But what’s the difference?
There’s a fine line between passion and obsession. Would anyone quarrel with the idea that passion is a worthy attribute or a natural feeling? Probably not. But who among us might note that obsession sounds a bit, well, over the top?
Can we find anything wrong with obsession?
Passion: A powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
Obsession: Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea, or unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by unwanted feelings of anxiety.
These are definitions from a dictionary. But our ideas about both terms may be as profound as Webster’s. I asked the opinion of two of my writer friends on the two terms. We had a long discussion over coffee, and in the end, we’d learned something valuable about ourselves.
We described “passion” as love, as in “we love to write.” We embrace the act, which is a “free-flowing-out” activity that nurtures us as human beings. We agreed that if we could not write, our lives would not end, but a huge gap in our hearts would go unfulfilled, making us unhappy and yearning. However, we would find something else to fill the void.
We described “obsession” as a devouring, all-consuming activity, which would drain us of energy and happiness, hurting us in the end.
However, we three admitted that there had been times when we wrote obsessively, for one reason or another. During this time, we’d harmed our health, our relationships, and quite possibly our real creativeness.
Example: You send a manuscript to an agent and he writes back that he loves your writing, and he thinks he’ll be able to sell it to one of the big publishers. But… he tells you…we must make some changes. He proceeds to outline major changes, deleting certain parts of your beloved manuscript, and re-writing a certain portion, while at the same time changing the title, and let’s also do this….
By the time you read the entire missive, your stomach is in turmoil, you feel a headache coming on, and you feel a little rage building inside your chest. However, the next morning, you arise at six a.m., grab a cup of coffee, stumble to the computer, and begin the assigned chore. By six in the evening, you realize you never dressed, you still wear your fuzzy slippers, and you only ate one slice of bread slathered with peanut butter the entire day. But you still have several hours before bedtime. You tell your husband, I need to work a while longer. At 3 a.m., you stagger to bed. The next morning, ignoring the admonitions from your dearly beloved, you repeat the process. After all, you only have 200 pages to go. By the second morning, your stomach is in a horrible upheaval, your breathing comes short, your back screams with muscles spasms, and your neck is stiff with sharp pains shooting up. But you only have 25 pages to go. And you continue.
Obsessed? Yes, for a short while. Suppose I told you that this manuscript was rejected in the end? It was. Not mine, but the writer who could have been you, anyone, or me.
Paul Carvel said: "Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion."
I don’t know this person, but I’m certain he knew first hand of which he spoke.
I won’t say I’ll never write with obsession again, but I will say I’ll remember how I felt at the time, and try to make corrections in my behavior. In a way, it’s a controlling action, imposed on you by yourself. Any writer, in my opinion, will at one time or another write with obsession. Why? That’s your business, no one else’s.
If someone speaks of your writing and says, “My goodness, you’re obsessed,” don’t allow that to make you angry or hurt.
Remember: no one can really define the difference between passion and obsession except you.
Passion and obsession—divided by a very fine line.
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Published by: The Wild Rose Press