Natalie Goldberg, in her book Writing Down the Bones, has a great subject for writing practice. List your obsessions. Then she says, go beyond that. Use them. Harness their power because they are going to show up in your writing whether you want them or not.
The past three weeks my obsessions have been showing up bigtime. Not so much in my writing as in my life in general. Moving house shakes everything up. All that organized chaos lets things loose and drops things in unexpected places. It pulls off the covers of everything that has been hiding and that has been hidden.
I have not written a list of my obsessions for a very long time. It is obviously time that I do.
I am making a rule for this list. Each obsession has to be one word. Otherwise I can see me trying to explain or deny or qualify the obsession I am listing.
One word gets things down to their essence.
Do I want to set a number to stretch myself? I have to list at least x number of obsessions, or should I just write until I can’t think of any more? Write until I can’t think of any more. Okay, that is two rules for my list of obsessions.
Here goes. List my obsessions. One word for each. Go!
Chocolate. Food. Meals. Time. Clocks. Sound. Music. Writing. Words. Books. Bookstores. Libraries. Reading. Drawing. Art. Artists. Colour. Line. Space. Dimensions. Measuring. Numbers. Mathematics. Formulas. Perfection. Beauty. Truth. Story. Balance. Relaxation. Comfort. Rest. Play. Laughter. Fun. Puzzles. Games. Mysteries. Science-fiction. Science. Answers. Understanding. Connection. Communication. Love. Hugs. Touch. Family. Friends. Conversation. Kindness. Compassion. Generosity. Sharing. Paper. Notebooks. Pencils. Pens. Smoothness. Quiet. Peace. Landscape. View. Trees. Forest. Water. Ocean. Beach. Tides. Seashells. Stones. Rivers. Shadows. Light. Stars. Moon. Sky. Clouds. Rain. Puddles. Snow. Ice. Wind. Feathers. Falling. Standing. Walking. Grounded. Settled. Knowing. Knowledge. Wisdom. Tricks. Broken. Whole. Reality. Imagination. Creating. Mess. Order. Pattern. Hands.
102 obsessions on today’s list. That’s enough.
All these things are important to me in one way or another. They all have meaning for me. They hook my interest. I am attached to my obsessions in multiple ways. They show up in my writing, my drawings, my life.
What makes me interested in some things and not in others? So much so that they become pattern and need and obsession?
Emotion. There are emotions and life experiences tied to every word on my list. No wonder Natalie says use your obsessions in your writing. My obsessions are rich, layered places, and they link one to another. They overlap and complement and contrast. They show me who I am, the real me. Not the me who takes on other people’s expectations and values and activities. These are my choices only.
They create my life rich.
I realize as I write this that my definition of obsessions is not the dictionary definition. I experience my obsessions as a positive force in my life. They tease and tantalize, inspire and energize me into ideas, questions, words, images, creations.
If I didn’t have my obsessions I would likely be a lump on a couch. No thanks, that’s not for me.
So, tell me. What are your obsessions? What invites you and drives you to create in your life?
If you don’t like the word obsessions, okay. Ask this instead. What do you love? List what comes. Don’t censor yourself. And then use the list, play with what is on it.
I could list what I love, and all these 102 words on my today-list would show up asking to be written down as loves in my life.
There is a book by Eric Maisel and Ann Maisel called Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions. The book was published in 2010.
Eric is one of my creativity heroes. I discovered his books in my first year of art school. He is teacher, mentor, example, and hero to me through his books and online work. Eric introduced me to the idea and use of productive obsessions in 2009, through his online productive obsessions group. He taught, asked questions, played with ideas, and so did we.
This work, and play, gave me permission to be creatively productively obsessed with what I love.
There is joy in this, and freedom as well.
Thank you, Natalie. Thank you, Eric. And thank you, my creatively obsessed brain for wanting to play.
Mentioned in this post:
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones, 1986 and 2005, Shambhala. http:/nataliegoldberg.com
Eric Maisel and Ann Maisel, Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions, 2010, New World Library. http:/ericmaisel.com