Does being obsessive hinder or help a writer?

Obsessiveness can be a very bad trait if you get so overwhelmed and inundated with a thought or project that all you think about is whatever the focus in your life is right now. It can make you unpopular and even ostracized. It can isolate you and push others away who do not share your passion about that particular thing.

To me, being obsessive means I am giving something the most attention that I am able to bestow on anything. It indicates that I am planning every detail. That in order to do my best at this particular enterprise, I am spending all my time, every single moment exploring whatever it needs to make this a priority in my life. By excluding almost everything else, I can make it a success. This is my thinking.
However, this thought process may make me too stiff and unyielding and not open to other ideas or important elements in my surroundings. It could mean withdrawing inside myself instead or being open to other people and their needs. It could chase people away or eliminate completely the open mindedness that is necessary to produce original thought.

On the other hand, obsessive behavior may also be thought of as stick-to-it-ive-ness and the dog-with–a bone syndrome that makes you a steady person with no chance of losing sight of the prize or keeping to your mission till you accomplish the results you want. It could be just a matter of perception.

When I watch my husband puzzle out why something does not wok it drives me slightly insane. He can spend hours upon hours figuring out how to fix it or make something work even though he has no expertise in that field, but his determination is also obsessive. He will not quit until he has found the answer to the problem. For him doing his thing, it is just seeing the job through or not giving up until there is nothing left to do. I can’t understand his obsession, but mine makes perfect sense.

As a writer I see both sides of being obsessive. I see the dangers and the benefits. If your obsession closes your mind to everything else, you are being cheated of the chance to let imagination explode without boundaries. You may eliminate choices because of an obsessive nature about those things you have already decided upon. An example could be the decided theme of the plot if your characters suddenly take the story in a different direction. This could be very bad.

The other side of this issue is that an obsessive person may stick to a writing project even though it is troublesome. They may not give up easily if at all. They might be the person that takes on a writing career because they are obsessive to the point of not stopping till they get it right. Their obsession could make them spend every moment possible learning the craft and never being discouraged by other people’s opinions or rejection notices. This may be the type of person who says, I will be a writer, I will be published. I will succeed at this chosen endeavor because I will never call it quits.

Obsessive or just a person with the character traits we admire in our heroes? Those that win the race against all odds are obsessive as they train unmercifully for long hours in all kinds of adverse conditions. Those that find the strength and courage to run into burning buildings because the idea of saving a child is the only thing they can think of even if their own life might be lost. Isn’t that a kind of obsession and aren’t we glad they have such a trait?

And what do you think?



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