Obsessions, a Writing Technique

Recently, I heard somebody talk about how writers have “obsessions.” That is, things that writers personally are interested in or fascinated by that appear throughout their writing. This person noted that writers often lean into their obsessions to improve their writing in some facet or another.

By coincidence, I had recently written a poem where I forced myself to add in language relating to physics, one of my obsessions.

so the molecules
rush down the wood
aided by 9.8 meters per second per second
into cohesion

And I was quite pleased with the resulting poem. It took me significantly less time and revision to achieve a result I was fairly satisfied with.

Why does this work?

Well, it’s like backing yourself into a creative corner. By making yourself incorporate your obsessions, you are pushing yourself creatively and stylistically, which is where some of the most interesting writing comes from. But you are also writing about something you find interesting, so the experience remains enjoyable and doesn’t feel like a forced exercise.

How do you identify your obsessions?

Look at your hobbies. What do you like to do in your free time? Look at what you enjoy to read. What writers’ style do you admire? What reoccurring themes, images, or metaphors are in what you tend to read? Look at samples of your own writing. What reoccurring themes or images crop up?

I really enjoy literature that has allusions to space. In my spare time, I like to learn about astronomy and look at the stars. And looking at the bulk of my writing, I notice I make use of a lot of cosmic imagery. So, it becomes quite apparent one of my obsessions is space.

Once you’ve identified your obsessions, use them! It doesn’t have to be a piece about Roman mythology or space for me to reference Venus. The juxtaposition of Venus in a poem about spilled orange juice is strange and surprising, two things that often constitute good imagery and metaphor.

Think of your obsessions as your own personal spice mix you add to any writing piece that seems bland. Experiment with them. Find out what elements make your writing click.