Strategies for the Obsessive Mind




  Let’s get back on topic.

 Let’s work our fingers to the bone.

 Ever been obsessed? Ever not been? Not with a person or an object, but with a concept, an idea, a ‘We’re taking the One Ring to Mordor’ type of life journey? Search your heart. You know you’ve been consumed at least once in your life. It’s part of the human experience. To want. To need. To live and die with your obsession until it’s done, devoured, destroyed.

For the most part, I don’t have an obsessive personality. I’ll close a book after an hour to recharge. I can’t remember the last time a movie came out I needed to see. I’ll flip off the tv always. I try to make big deals out of saving money, being a better man, living life to its fullest, but when these ideals escape me, I generally shrug it off. Perhaps my absence of I need to do this is a weakness. Perhaps it’s a strength. Sometimes it’s a struggle just to find something worthy of caring about. Sometimes I want to lose myself in obsession, and it eludes me.   

But then there’s writing…

You may have seen the title Strategies for the Obsessive Mind and thought, ‘Oh great, another writer telling us about his writing process. Joy of joys.’ Never fear. Not gonna happen. I’m neither interested in processes nor compelled to criticize people who are. Discussing the anatomy of ink and quill just isn’t for me. What I am interested in is finding balance. We all need balance, right? If we indulge our obsessions too often and tip the scales into a shadow too deep, we risk losing ourselves. But…if we never dip our toes into dark waters, we’ll never know what lies beneath.

The truth is; it’s already too late. I’ve gone and lost myself.

 I can’t remember when it happened. A year ago? A decade ago? Last week? At some point in time, after teetering on the edge of the abyss, I let myself fall. Gravity claimed me. All the things that used to be important crumbled into dust. And here I am at the bottom, well and truly haunted. I still go to work, play with my kid, eat, sleep (a little), and force myself to exercise, but at all other times, whenever my mind strays from my daily routine, I fall, and fall, and fall. In the deep dark of my man-cave, I gloom over the end of one book, pen handwritten notes for the beginning of another, plan a total rewrite of another, and pepper light edits into still another. Whenever I’m not hammering out words, I’m contemplating my surroundings: Would new art in the man-cave provide even more inspiration? Should I paint the walls black, a la Rolling Stones? If I shaved my cat and dressed it in plate mail, would the other cats respect their new overlord?

And if that’s not enough, whenever I’m not distracted by the mundane, I’m dreaming up new stories. I’ve got more tales in liquid form than I know what to do with. Protagonist sent alone to alien world with purpose to destroy it, aware that if and when he returns hundreds of years will have passed and everyone he ever knew will be dead. – Protagonist unearths a relic that makes him godlike, and then becomes the antagonist. – Prehistoric civilizations discover the secret of fire, and then start the world’s first war. Go ahead. Steal them. I’ve got hundreds more. I’ll be dreaming in my grave long before I can write them all.  

 I ask myself if I’d like control of my mind back. The answer is, ‘Not really.’

 The way I see it, if you can’t beat obsession, bargain with it. Cut a deal with the devil in your mind. Obsession isn’t quite like addiction. We who are magnetized to the object(s) of our desire have a fighting chance…sometimes. I’m not talking about love, by the way. People in love are pretty much screwed. I’m talking about you, the I need to do this in order to be happy person, the writer, the reader, the movie maker, comic-book artist, painter, fighter, soldier, backyard car rebuilder. Embrace your obsession, but let it go sometimes. Fall into your work, but come back up for air. Don’t burn every bridge to reach the promised land, just most of them. Don’t let your passion kill you, but don’t stop until you’re dead.

Or ignore everything I just said and let yourself plummet into the lowest cavern of your desire. Either way is awesome.

Just don’t forget to shower.

J Edward Neill


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  1. It’s the forgetting to shower part that plagues me… 😉

    Yeah, I’m down in that hole somewhere – obsessing, drowning in ideas, talking to whomever is in my head at the moment. The walls glow, though, so I’m okay with it. It’s cozy.

  2. I ask myself if I’d like control of my mind back. The answer is, ‘Not really.’

    This is a mirror of my own life, only it’s art, not writing. Art, painting, creating is nearly always on my mind. When I’m not in the studio, I wish I were. In fact, if I go too long without creating it’s not a pretty sight and you don’t want to be anywhere near me. LOL

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