This week, I talked about my writing problems. Or, well, problem–as if there were only one of them. There isn’t. There are several. The I-have-too-many-things-to-do-so-I-end-up-doing-nothing is definitely the biggest – prioritizing projects is a challenge because I want to work on them all. But there are other challenges as well.
One in particular: I don’t like moderation.
I do things obsessively or I don’t do them at all. Generally, this is good. I’m not talking about the track-down-the-queen-and-hide-outside-Buckingham-palace type of obsession. I’m talking stay-awake-all-night-finishing-a-project-and-forget-to-shower-sleep-eat obsession. Yes, I said good. For writing, this is very good because writing, unlike stalking, has at least some chance of putting food on the table, and the more obsessively I work at it the higher that chance is.
The trouble is that sometimes obsessions collide.
See, I’m obsessed with the world.
Sometime shortly after college and in the midst of the transition to the “real world,” (I hate that expression. I don’t know about you but I definitely didn’t attend an imaginary college,) I realized that in my four years, I had learned quite a lot of things. My knowledge of the species of the Pegasus galaxy was exhaustive. I knew the topography of Middle Earth like my childhood neighborhood. Hogwarts would have graduated me summa cum laude for my knowledge of spells and magical history. Unfortunately, none of the knowledge I’d amassed was particularly useful or, in fact, real.
I realized that all the effort put towards learning the unreal could be put towards the real, I might know quite a lot about this world I was going into.
And a new obsession replaced the other.
Now, two and a half years later, I roll out of bed at about 6am to check Twitter where I’m following not my friends and family, but various causes, organizations, politicians, news sites, and generally well-informed individuals who keep me up to date on world events. My bookmarks folder no longer houses fan forums and movie collectables sites, but hundreds of blogs and newspapers. Often, I fall asleep with my ipod in my hands checking for the latest updates.
My obsessive pursuit of stories, transformed into an obsessive pursuit of truths.
Here’s the thing: my tendency to obsess over geeky stuff never was a problem. My intense interest in various forms of storytelling was after all what kindled and shaped my writing ambition. The world, on the other hand, demands more.
I don’t want to write about made up churches and made up soldiers on on made up worlds with made up laws. I want to write about the newly recognized Missionary Church of Kopimism, and our New Year’s gift of the NDAA, and the looming threat of SOPA, and the fledgling Pirate Party in my home state of New York, and the persisting #Occupiers (including #OccupyRochester <<<–– my city ), and the circus of candidates the Republicans are parading through New Hampshire, and…
But I’m not.
I’m writing Chapter 9. And finishing Chapter 8. And outlining Chapter 10, and Chapter 11, and … I’m writing. Not about the world. Not about this world. But about another.
Because that’s what I can do.
It may not be respectable. It may not be helpful. But it is doable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ignoring the world around me. And I’m not turning my back on it either.
But, somehow, just for a little, I have to find a way to separate myself, just a little, from the things I want to do so I can focus on the things I can do.
I have to separate myself, just a little, from the world I want to control as an active citizen so that I can focus on the world that I can control as a writer. Not this world. But another.
Which one’s more important? Don’t answer. I know.
I still want both.