Monday, November 1, 2010

Obsession, For Me...Not Calvin Klein

We humans are a curious bunch of primates, aren't we?  Habits come pretty easily to us, even the vices.  An innocent interest can evolve into an obsession before you can say, "I'll go to bed, but after I do this just one more time..."  It happened to me with the Rubik's Cube.

I learned to solve the cube with one goal in mind, to demonstrate the power of process ("Are You Afraid Of Process?").  After countless hours of practice, I couldn't stop myself.  I would spend time searching the internet for new techniques.  How to do it faster.  What cool patterns could I create?  Then it was all about variety.  How many methods could I use to solve it?
  • Start with one layer first and build from there
  • Start with the eight corners and then fill in the twelve edges
  • Solve the first two layers simultaneously and go from there
  • Start with a small 2x2 chunk and expand from there
  • Move each piece into its correct location one piece at a time
  • And so on and so on.
It was like I was looking for that next high, a little better than the last.  Drug addicts hopelessly search for that elusive euphoria to match their first hit.  Surfers dream about and wait for that perfect tube.  Endurance athletes torment their bodies to trigger the release of endorphins so they can experience their "Runner's High."

Yes for me, the Rubik's Cube became an obsession.  But that can be such a strong word.  I hear it and I might think of the following playing out:

          "The President will see you now."
          Oh, no!  Did I turn off the iron?
          "Wow, Mr. President, it's an honor to meet you!"
          I'm pretty sure I turned off the iron.
          "I can't believe that little ole me was invited to the White House."
          Oh God!  The house is going to burn down, I know it!

But as Calvin Klein has proven, Obsession can be a good thing too.

As a writer, I obsess about a lot of things.  I may spend hours upon hours researching a topic for a short story, or even a scene.  I try to get into the head of a character and wonder, is this real?  Is this accurate?  Is this really what the Florida Keys are like during a hurricane?

The fix I'm looking for is some acceptance in an ocean of self-doubt.  This sucks.  Nobody will like this.  Maybe if I change this part, someone will eventually "get it".  Someone will have the insight to see what I am trying to do as a writer.  If I strike a chord with someone, that will give me a high.

But is it good enough?  And when is the piece really done?  A story can be edited and manipulated and tweaked until the end of time.  Think about that, though.  If I waited until my post was perfectly crafted, then this would be a pretty sparse blog.  And who wants to read a blog with only one post?  Even if it were "perfect".

I can't help it.  There are always things to obsess about.  The beginning, the middle, the ending of a story.  What an English Bulldog might actually say if she were the CEO of a dog food corporation.  Am I writing enough?  Am I learning enough about writing?  Am I finishing enough stories?  Am I editing enough stories?  Does what I have to say really matter to the world?

What kind of writer are you?

Do you get coffee-type jitters if you aren't able to write something, anything at a certain time each day?  Do you obsess about word count?  Do you edit your prose endlessly?  Do you dash from your bed at night before you forget a great phrase, plot twist, or character flaw?  Does your keyboard beckon you like Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-tale Heart"?

Some of the finest pieces of art were created by tormented artists obsessed with their work. Even Calvin Klein showed the world that Obsession can be quite nice.  Thank you, Mr. Klein.

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