I sometimes wish I was more obsessed. Obsessed over writing. So obsessed that I wouldn’t be able to help but write page after page, day after day, until I had so much content I could spread it around like the plague. I’m definitely motivated, but not obsessive.
It’s a ridiculous wish, of course. Being obsessive is no good trait. The dictionary definition of obsession is ‘a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling’. Any definition that includes the words ‘disturbing’ and ‘unreasonable’ is clearly not a state of mind to desire. Yet part of me still does mostly because I want to be great at writing, and worry that unless I become obsessed I’ll never reach that level of greatness.
Part of the problem is that popular culture has taken that word and given it new, more positive, meaning. I had a university lecturer of mine once tell me he was “obsessed with story structure”. Did that mean he was persistently preoccupied with the concept to the point of it being disturbing? No, it meant he found it interesting. Very interesting, perhaps, but not obsessive. Likewise I’ve heard people tell me that they’re obsessed with a particular TV show, or obsessed over a food product, or obsessed with their pet. Unless these people haven’t left their homes in the last month because they’re constantly re-watching Breaking Bad, or non-stop eating avocados, or can’t bear to be apart from their pet goldfish Sushi, then I don’t think they’re obsessed.
Let’s go back to me for a minute (this is my blog after all) and ask why – if I want this goal so badly – am I not obsessed? Ultimately, the only answer I can think of is that I don’t actually want it that badly.
I have this memory of being a teenager and hearing my Dad lament the fact that he was good at a lot of things but great at nothing. I’ve thought about that conversation a number of times in the intervening decade between then and now, and, while it was likely just a passing thought Dad happened to have that day and chances are he might not remember saying it, it’s forced me to ask myself if I can’t be great at something is it worth doing? Answer: Fuck yes it is. I would much rather be good at a lot of things than great at one. I have a lot of interests and like it that way. There is so much pleasure to be had learning to be good at a variety of things. The world is too huge and amazing a place for me to become obsessed with one thing, even if it’s something I’m really passionate about. Coincidentally, it was my Dad that made me realise this. He too is a man of many interests (hence the reason he’s good at a lot of things) and he too seems to enjoy his varied interests. Because of this it always confused teenage, and then adult, me that he would want to be great at one thing at the cost of all the others. Furthermore, I looked at the obsessively great-at-one-thing version of himself he wistfully dreamed of, compared it to the man he is, and found the former wanting. That version of my father would be boring and absent. Unable to experience all the world has to offer and unable to connect with other people because of it. Much like the writing obsessed version of myself I wistfully dream of would be.
I still want to become great at writing, but if I never do because I’m too distracted and interested by all the world has to offer, then I’m okay with that.
(P.S. Dad, do you realise what an achievement it is to actually be good at a lot of things? You idiot)