Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Passionate about Writing? Or Obsessive?

 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.

 Celia Yeary
Romance…and a little bit o' Texas
TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print
Published by: The Wild Rose Press


  1. Hey Celia,
    What a timely topic. I get carried away with my writing to the extent of neglecting other important stuff. That's definitely a passionate obsesssion. So far, I've been lucky not to get caught up in negative obsession with writing.

    I'm not so lucky about other areas of my life. Right before or after a big event (a long trip, Christmas, Thanksgiving, wedding, etc), there's so much to do that I get overwhelmed with the entirety of it. That negativity is an ugly spiral. Both time and level-headedness prevail, as I don't have time to sit around and worry about stuff -- too much to do!

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts about the matter.

  2. MAGGIE--thanks for your input. I don't think I'm obsessed, although a person or two have used that term when they learn I'm "still writing." Some people think when you write one or two books, you sit back and collect money. Well, if you're Sarah Palin you do, but not me. I choose to see myself as very passionate, so I won't use that term obsessed. Celia

  3. Celia, what a thought provoking post. I loved how you defined passion vs obsession in writing. Excellent example of the agent as well. I'd like to think I'm passionate as opposed to obsessed. Writing is in my bones but it's the driving force in my bones.


  4. That's a wonderful quote, Celia. Where did you find that? And an excellent post. I love posts that make me think :) Am I passionate or obsessive? Definately passionate. But I do have my obsessive moments. Fortunately, they don't last more than a day or two. My health can't take it, and I didn't spend all this time making my health a priority only to undo it.

  5. HI, STEPH--a "driving force" is a good term. I'd pair that with "psssion." I hope I don't become obsessed--although sometimes I feel like I'm trying to do too much. There's that driving force, again. Thanks! Celia

  6. LIANA--I found the quote when I Googled "passion vs. obsession," among the many sites to read.I'm glad to see you admit you're sometimes obsessive--we all are, probably. Maybe during those times when I'm really into writing or a project, I probably appear obsessed! And our health is the bug issue about becoming obsessive--it's zap you right down. Celia

  7. I think for me an obsession is anything that supercedes anything else and passion is an underlying player.

    Many years ago I wrote a 150,000 word story in 76 straight hours. Anger was my driving force. It gave me a storyline that couldn't wait.

  8. BEKKI--I bet you couldn't move afterwards! That's incrediable, but I understand anger as a driving force, too, although not very much. I like your definition in the first sentence--you hit it dead on. Thanks--Celia

  9. Hmmm, I may have stepped into obsession once or twice. Mostly, I think I am passionate about my work. Great article!

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  11. Hi Celia,

    I am a passionate writer, definitely, but I used to obsess over it in the beginning. I was so DETERMINED to complete that first novel and submit it, because I was deluded into believing everyone would want to buy that first novel. *shakes head* I am so happy to have regained my balance and my sanity and peace with my family. :D

    Great post.

    ~ Evie

  12. Thanks, Caroline--Probably we've all stepped into obsession more than once.I know I have, but since it makes me physically sick, now, with my older wisdom, I try to keep an even pace. Can't alwasy, though.Celia

  13. Hi, Evie--oh, that sounds familiar! A common trait among authors--we're a hard-headed bunch, though, and just try, try again. Thanks for your comment--Celia

  14. Celia,

    What a great post. I believe obsession takes you into madness and many of the great painters and authors were mad, alcoholics and other things.

  15. SANDY--I was thinking along that line, too. But I realize there are degrees of obsession, the level most of us might fall into if we did become slightly "obsessed." I was specifically thinking of Van Gogh--was there any painter as obsessed as he? I think not, but I may be wrong. thanks for stopping by--Celia

  16. Hi Celia,

    There's another type of writing related obsession; where we hold onto a work or become so attached to a character or idea that, even when completed, we fear letting it go. Not the fear of rejection... that's normal, especially for young or new writers. Instead, the obsessive fear that what we have created will somehow change or be perverted if we allow an editor or publisher to "have their way" with it.

    A similar example would be as related to the response from the editor in you article. Instead of getting to the task of editing, the idea that your manuscript could be anything but perfect or flawless is beyond imagining. In that respect, I'm reminded of how Mozart felt about the suggestion his work was anything other than perfect at first writing.

    Thanks for the piece.


  17. Oh, Celia, you've picked a fabulous topic and you laid it out so clearly. Passion vs obsession. Passionate obsession? Obsessive passion? Most likely, I'm on the obsessive side of that line, although I've learned how to manage myself over the years so I don't get lost in the obsession.

  18. William--You've raised a point that hadn't occurred to me. I admit, I have held a special piece of writing close to my chest, hanging on for dear life, fearful of allowing anyone to see it.Each time I'd think of a friend I might ask to read it, I'd find some reason why she wasn't the best choice--usually that she knew more than I did.Thank you for commenting--Celia

  19. Keena--obsessive passion? Perfect definition that probably fits most of us. I try so hard not to appear obsessive, because in truth, I do have a touch of that. Thanks--Celia

  20. Wow. Certainly a lot to think about. Passion, good. Obsession, maybe not. :-D

    When I think of obsession, I also consider the all-encompassing need that can lead to desperate acts. When a scorned lover shoots another or a person targeting a competitor or rival for a position, these are definite acts of obsession. Very scary stuff.

    So a person obsessed can not only harm his or herself, but anyone who stands in the way.

    Very, very thought provoking, Celia. Thanks for this!!


  21. Such a fine line between passion and obsession. Great post!!!

  22. CHIRON--right. There are different kinds of obsessions. Much of this information came from my discussion with my small writing group.. We talked for a hour about this, and they were shooting ideas and thoughts to me very fast--thanks for coming by--Celia

  23. MARIANNE--thanks for the compliment and for visiting. Celia

  24. I'm always talking about being obsessed with writing, and constantly being corrected that I'm passionate, not obsessive. I still don't see the difference.

  25. Nice question to make us consider, Celia. I'm always passionate about my work and I'm often obsessive, but. That's when I get the most done and I love being obsessive, but I also know when it's time to back away and revive in between obsessive spurts.

    Good to think about :-)

  26. ALICE--it's really a matter of semantics, probably. There's a line dividing something that won't hurt us, and something that probalbly will--in this case, the definition makes the difference.Thanks for your input! Celia

  27. LORAINE--I think most of us hate to admit we're definitely obsessive at times. I feel that way, for example, when I'm writing a critical part of the plot, and my creativity is at a peak, and I do not want to stop.At times, I'd think--if my house caught on fire, I don't think I could quit typing. Now, that's a little over the top. Thanks for your comment--you alwasy have something wise to add. Celia

  28. I'm afraid I haven't written and I miss it so much.

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