Clash of the Obsessions

Octavia Butler once wrote about “positive obsession” – something constructive you do because you just can’t stop yourself. It completely takes you over. For her it was writing, and led to a great career. But what do you do when you have more than one, and they keep wrestling with each other?

I’ve struggled with this for ages. I keep bouncing back and forth between one art and another. For a while, one takes over – and I’m driven to do nothing but. It feels great, but at the same time I neglect my other passions when I’m fully immersed in one of them. I can’t seem to find a balance.

This is why I’ve had a problem finding a career, because a professional has to focus on what pays, and keep doing it even when it’s a chore. Instead, when I’m feeling unchallenged, or over-challenged, or bored, I jump into something else entirely and get all caught up in it.

I’ve read all kinds of advice like, “Write down five things you love to do. Now figure out the one you want to do most and AVOID THE OTHERS LIKE THE PLAGUE FOREVER.” Maybe that’s the only way I’ll ever be a pro writer, if I give up all other art forms completely – but it feels like I’d be losing a richer life. I don’t want to be single-minded. I want to have hobbies as well, but it’s a little like having dessert before a fantastic feast. You fill up on the guilty pleasure and have no room for just-as-tasty food that’s good for you.

I’ve been thoroughly immersed in 3D modeling lately, to the exclusion of all other pursuits. I’ve been learning new animation techniques, and those dopamine highs are hard to resist. I haven’t been reading much and I’ve barely been writing. Writing right now is a chore. I’m forcing myself to do it – to remove myself from the 3D environment and stick my head in a page full of words (or a blank one awaiting words).

When I force myself to sit and write, I go to the couch where it’s comfortable to do it, because then it feels like a real break from the other thing. I focus on how good it feels to not be sitting in that unforgiving computer chair, because otherwise it would be hard to rip myself away from it. Even so it’s hard to focus. The thing that’s fun right now keeps calling to me.

The other night I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking. Despite knowing how much I’d regret getting a bad sleep, I missed these idea storms. I haven’t had one in ages. Coming up with stories feels great, but it’s yet another mod idea. I’m still stuck on the novel to the point where I’m disgusted with it, and that’s the whole problem. It’s not fun right now, whereas this hobby stuff is.

I have a feeling the novel problem will only work itself out if keep myself engaged with it, but I don’t have enough headspace for that with the other project consuming me. Eventually I pull my head out of this kind of thing and go cold turkey on it for a while. That’s probably the only thing I can do, but dammit I don’t wanna. This sucks.

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Sarah Dimento

The only thing interesting about me is my interest in interesting things – and sometimes I make cool shit.

5 thoughts to “Clash of the Obsessions”

  1. Is the problem not that you’re torn by wanting to do so many things, but that you’re letting yourself be distracted from actually finishing something? Maybe it feel better to complete a project before turning to something else.

    I get this. I want to learn to play the guitar well enough to record songs, to write a daily comic strip, to write songs. But it also suggests that when I’m working on a book, my mind wants to distract me from finishing it by coming up with other wonderful ideas that will draw me away from it; because once it’s finished, it’ll be JUDGED and I might get CRITICIZED and that would be SCARY.

    The devil is in the distractions.

    1. My problem is a similar flavor for sure, but it’s that I can finish the visual art more quickly and have it immediately weighed on the scales of public opinion. The 3D modeling and game modding has more immediate and tangible rewards, so it has more pull when writing becomes meh. I’ve been doing it as a hobby for a decade and people know my work, so I can whip up a 3D model in a day, show someone, and get a quick, “OMG that’s so cool!” Or even a “this needs work,” but if it does, it’s on something more solid than a story. The intrinsic rewards also come easier, because there’s always more to learn about 3D programs. The same is true for writing, but with a 3D program it has a help file and the feedback is immediate. Either something works and looks good, or it looks horrible and doesn’t work at all.

      My novel is not even being a novel right now. I spent three months writing half a novel’s worth of what turned out to be backstory, and was disappointed to find I haven’t even started my novel yet. I feel like I’m not yet ready to write it. I was going to dedicate the month to finishing that backstory, but I’m so annoyed with it my brain went “screw this” and decided it would be more fun making alchemy equipment for fantasy games instead.

      1. You’re multi-talented. But you need to pursue a profession which will give you satisfaction, too.

        Can you find something within your obsessions that will feed your body as well as your soul? That is the big question, because adults normally prefer to have the money to care for themselves, be part of a team, take care of their children.

        Writing is wonderful – but I can only afford this luxury because of disability income, and now retirement, along with a working spouse. I have always done as much as I could to hold up my side of the sky, financially – and that is the hardest part of being disabled, that I can do very few things, and none of them for income.

        I had the drive to write long before the chance to exercise it, and I don’t have your graphics skills, and my computer skills were computational physics which my brain can no longer do. Writing is a no brainer, and it turns out I was good at it, and have taught myself a lot more than when I started (slowly – but what else did I have?).

        Some people can’t do anything, others, nothing they can sell in any quantity. It is very hard.

        I wish you success pinning down not only what you can do, but what you want to do, and what will give you what you need. It’s a tough world – but you have choices.

        1. Yeah, I’ve mostly been reluctant to take on huge commitments, like a steady job, since I completely burnt out in chronic pain on the last one. There are many things I’d love to do, but don’t feel like I have the stamina to go pro in any of them, which is why I’ve spent the past year trying to rebuild my stamina back to something like it once was. Every failure to keep up the pace makes me less sure of my abilities to take on work for anyone but myself.

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