I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this topic discussed before in our industry….so let’s give it a try.
The topic is: Writing as an obsession…is it good or bad? What does it mean to be obsessed with one’s writing? Is an obsession God’s way of maximizing one’s talent or is it man’s way of clutching a God-given talent too tightly?
What prompts this discussion is that I’ve had several encounters with the topic from various places in the past few days. Frankly, I don’t think I know any writers who are obsessed with their writing, but maybe they’re just not telling me if they are.
First, let me address the response I know you all have to this question. YES, I understand that Christian writers are to be focused fully on Christ (I won’t use the word obsession. It doesn’t seem quite right). God is to have our full attention whether we’re writers or not, right? So, with that point of agreement, let me move on.
Some of you may know I’m a big fan of music from the 1960s. I’ve always enjoyed the music of the Beach Boys and right now I’m reading Wouldn’t it Be Nice? Brian Wilson’s autobiography. It’s not a pleasant read at all. Brian’s dad was a horrible father. He physically and mentally abused Brian and his brothers on a routine basis. Perhaps that’s what led Brian into his obsession with music and the resulting mega-success the Beach Boys have enjoyed the past fifty years. By age twenty, Brian was consumed by his music—and his sheer drive to be the best songwriter/record producer in the industry. He HAD to be one number. He even admits to the word “obsessed.” Music was his life around the clock. He even slept next to his keyboard.
And, of course, it paid off, big time. Brian Wilson is one of the legends of rock music. But had Brian not been obsessed with his music, he would never have been the legend he is today. Was it worth it? Would you pay that price to succeed?
On my “to be read” pile is a book about Michelangelo. I’m hazarding a guess that he was obsessed with his art. I read somewhere that Alexander Cruden was obsessed about compiling his concordance to the Bible. (One would just about HAVE to be obsessed to list every usage of every word in the Bible. 🙂 But in his case, surely it was a God-given obsession….or was it?)
Another quote I came across was from the very prolific late writer Isaac Asimov. He once said, “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”
Can any of us say that? Is saying that even healthy? Is that making an idol out of our writing?
Asimov also said, “If my doctor told me I had only six months to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” He also claimed that his experience with writer’s block was the worst ten minutes of his life. I strongly suspect that an obsession with writing does tend to eliminate writer’s block.
Okay, a few more quotes:
“I have always been in a condition in which I cannot not write.” Barbara Tuchman
“A writer is someone who write, that’s all. You can’t stop it; you can’t make yourself do anything else but that.” Gore Vidal
“A good writer always works at the impossible.” John Steinbeck
“When I’m near the end of the book, I sleep in the same room with it. Somehow the book doesn’t leave you when you’re asleep next to it.” Joan Didion
I could go on—I love quotes by writers and have several books of them—but you get the idea. I will, however, mention one more anecdote that bears on being obsessive. This comes from the late chess champion Bobby Fischer. When he was asked why he was able to defeat Russian chess grandmaster Boris Spassky, he replied, “Boris has said that, to him, the game of chess is like life. To me, chess IS life.”
The difference was one of obsession.
So, what do you think?
Is obsession about one’s writing healthy or unhealthy?
Are you obsessed?
And if so, are you obsessed with writing itself or with becoming a published writer? There’s a huge difference.
Do you think an obesessed writer is more likely to succeed?
I’m tempted to write more about this. It’s a fascinating aspect of our craft and one I don’t see discussed in Christian writing circles.
What say you?