Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Healthy Obsession

I have an obsessive personality. Just ask my therapist, if you can find her.
I haven't seen her in years. ;-)

While in general terms, an obsession is, usually, not exactly a positive character trait, I think I've found a way to use mine to some benefit. At least, for my own benefit. I can't make any claims for those suffering in my presence.
It has to do with how my writing career started, and how I learned that, despite popular opinion, I am not so much of a procrastinator as I was led to believe. (more on that later)

As I've mentioned, a good portion of my written work has started with one dream or another. The rest of it, (nearly all the rest of it) sprouted around my inability to simply stop the mental chatter each evening and go to sleep like a normal person. I've always had this problem, and when you have to get up at an ungodly hour for: work, school, or what have you, it is definitely a problem.

I can't remember when I started telling myself bedtime stories, (You're calling my therapist, aren't you?) but I did. Sometimes I told the same one over and over for weeks, each night adding a bit, changing parts, tweaking the dialogue. Sometimes the story started with a dream fragment, and the telling of it helped it expand and take on life. The two are so intertwined I usually can't separate them. Either way, the process worked--at least to put me to sleep.

The obsessiveness came in years later when I remembered a story that I hadn't told in so long I'd nearly forgotten about it. (actually had forgotten about it for a time) Panic seized me. I'd nearly lost the story forever. That thought stayed with me. I tried to think of ALL the stories, but I knew some were missing. I lost sleep over it.
Eventually, I started scratching down notes--mini outlines that would spark enough recognition that I would instantly remember the story they referred to. I relaxed. No more lost tales. .. . .

Why didn't I just get to writing them down?
Well,
I've been told most of my life that I am, in fact, a chronic procrastinator, that I never finish anything, that I flit from one partially finished thing to another. At that point, I still believed it.

So, a few more years pass. The stories are really piling up now, but I'm good. I'm keeping notes.
I check them now and again to make sure. Then one day, I read a note and can't remember what the heck it's talking about. Story gone. Lost. Panic.
No more dodging now, I HAVE to write them all down. I have to finish something. I begin to hyperventilate. I'm not a finisher, I'm a starter-race-like-mad-for-a-few-days-and-then-get-distracted-er. Aren't I?

Not so. Tsk Tsk. Not in the face of a full blown obsessive bout of panic. I started in, wrote like mad, set my determination to finish, and ....
Okay, it took me three years. Not a great start for someone with a notebook full of story seeds. Three years for the first novel. Ummm...

Thankfully, completion is addictive. Obsessives love addiction. The second novel took 30 days. (thanks to NaNoWriMo) then the third, the novellas, the slew of short stories... pretty soon
I don't start anything that doesn't get finished. And in a timely manner to boot.

So, now I'm getting things done. I'm getting the stories down. Problem solved, right?
It feels good, till I look at that pile of notebooks. I twitch a little. Something about finishing, writing regularly, obsessiveness, whatever you call it, has a tendency to spawn more ideas. Open the floodgates, and I can barely keep up with them. I can't, actually.
I don't think about it.
When my mind whispers, you'll never get them all down, I plug my ears.
At least it's harder to hear over the sound of typing.

the end
it's a lovely phrase.
~Frances

2 comments:

Kappa no He said...

What a really sweet post! Now you need to scoop up all those stories and get them published in a collection. And that reminds me, I need to Nanowrimo this year!

terrie

Frances Pauli said...

Thanks for the comment! If you Nano in November, look me up. I'm always there as Neffis.