I'm not talking about chocolate, much as I crave it.
|He drives me wild.|
This is a different type of obsession -- when something catches your eye or ear and you immediately feel, "I want to learn everything I can about that."
Normal people don't let these "catch your ear" moments develop into full obsessions, but doing so is key to how I function as a writer.
Writers have obsessions, and that's a good thing. The more involved we become with an idea, concept, or tidbit from history, the more deeply we can express these things in a poem, play, story, or essay. I know it's a true obsession when I am researching or writing and I go into hyper focus. My kids know not to interrupt me then. It's almost a physical pain to be called out of what I'm working on to help find a missing shoe.
My current obsessions are:
- The Roc-A-Jets, 1950s all-girl rockabilly band based in Baltimore
- This painting, by Vincent van Gogh:
All it took was one look at that ocean of a beard, and I thought, "That painting might be a good subject for a poem." It only took thirty minutes of clicking around the Internet to find out that van Gogh had an uncharacteristically close relationship with his subject, postmaster Joseph Roulin, and Roulin's family.
What happens when obsessions collide? I don't have mental space for them both.
I'm writing down as much as I can about Roulin now, when the idea has energy. As long as I capture the initial impulse, I can come back to Roulin and van Gogh later.
Then, it's back to work on my piece about the Roc-A-Jets. Roulin looks like he would have enjoyed a good rockabilly show.
One of my favorite examples of a writer clearly obsessed with a subject appears in the novel The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje (here is one blogger's review). Chapter 7 covers Kip's bomb squad training in the kind of attentive detail that can only come from deep research.
Come out to Ahh, Coffee! in Annapolis this Saturday evening and to hear the end result of one of my obsessions. I'll be featured at a reading, along with my friend Fernando Quijano III. This will be my first public reading of a long ekphrastic poem. It's based on a work of fringe art -- the title of which I can't repeat here. Seriously.