Where the Obsession May Lead

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Say I was just a little bit obsessed with writing this book.

Would that be so bad?

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Maybe we have to become saturated with it, like a painter or an actor, to really convince anyone it’s worth their time.

I suppose the obvious (and well-documented) problem with this is what such an obsession tends to lead to. Fact is, with writers maybe even more so that with other artists, we court a lover far too vast and consuming to be handled.

Our medium is meaning itself. Our tools are the foundational building blocks of life–consciousness, words. Without The Word spoken, the world would not have begun, and without words, it could not be sustained, let alone support meaning. We are helplessly bound up in language, inextricably wrapped around reason and rationality–it is twisted into the very emotional and spiritual fibers that form our being.

When writers seek their medium, don’t they necessarily pull at the cord sustaining their very lives?

Maybe I should take up pottery. I really don’t want to start barking.

The books all say you have to face your fears and pay attention to what’s hard. But don’t we risk our own destruction when we peel back the layers of our lives and our minds to see what we can make of them?

I don’t want to freak anyone out, but are we ignoring the fact that even famous and successful writers seem just a little more unhinged with every new successful attempt?

IMG_6058It’s far more socially acceptable just to clap along and heap on praise for their sacrifices and dedication.

The fear of barking haunts, pursues me, my death and ultimate annihilation never far behind.

The crazy voice, the fear of not mattering, never escaping the intensity of this obsession, not to mention the regret over all I’ve sacrificed and the fallout in my relationships, it’s all on my mind whenever I sit down to the blank page.

This morning as I wrote, I thought how many writers sit down to produce every day, knowing they’re already a little crazy to do it–Why do we do this to ourselves?–even though we know it’s because we can’t help it. The drive pushes us on and makes us crazy.

And can we really be blamed? We only write because we have to and writers only say what they do because what else can they say? These things simply are and we write them because we’re pushed to the edge. And the only thing we can do to live is to fall forward and write the truth.

Honestly, it’s less voluntary than most would like to think.

IMG_6066Maybe it’s more spiritual, like prayer, a letting go of resistance to the conviction that embracing all this is–the good and bad, reasonable and unreasonable, legitimate and illegitimate–is needed to become the integrated people who can write what we must, what we were meant to. And if others don’t understand, maybe it’s because they don’t feel it pulsing and pushing through them like a fog, like the fear of dying.

Maybe they’re just afraid to feel that too.

And I wonder if maybe it’s only those who’ve embraced this fear and accepted the fallout who can experience the transcendent through the pursuit and the product of this fragile art.

The process may necessarily involve some letting go of our central cord. We pursue that release. So won’t a certain instability always follow?

“Plato spoke of the necessity for divine madness in the poet. It is a frightening thing to open oneself to this strange and dark side of the divine; it means letting go of our sane self-control, that control which gives us the illusion of safety. But safety is only an illusion, and letting it go is part of listening to the silence, and to the Spirit.” – Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water

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via Jen McCarthy

Letting go. I suppose this is the ultimate fear. But maybe there’s nothing behind it. And maybe if we simply refused to be afraid and instead trusted the voice, we’d find the confidence we need to remain safe. And sane.

I already know we won’t learn what we need to learn if we don’t embrace a deeper safety than rational thinking can assure. Reason and logic can’t tell us what there is beyond all we’re too afraid to leave.

Why can’t it be this simple? Why can’t the next step be merely to ask our source of strength for the courage to face that cave you still fear to enter? And then to find it surging up as you stand at the mouth and feel its drawing, its tugging at that invisible cord within.

Stretching your ability to comprehend a deeper meaning.

Maybe it’s not the voice of a monster coaxing you at all but something much more wonderful. And maybe he knows you need to let go of all you think you need to know or you’ll remain unchanged and untransformed….

Give that prayer a try today and let me know how it goes.

God be with you in your going, and in your coming to know the source of this call, out there where obsession mingles with the Refining Fire and is known and experienced only as purity.

For the higher purpose,

Mick

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10 thoughts on “Where the Obsession May Lead”

  1. This was particularly beautiful, Mick.

    I was just talking with a friend this evening about something similar, although neither of us stated it as clearly and transcendentally as you just did.

    “Our medium is meaning itself.” Yes. It is. Go for it, we like to say to someone else. The thing is, we need to say that to ourselves, too. All writers and artists need to go for it, because the truth of the matter is, if we don’t, it is just not going to stop pursuing us. If we don’t let it catch us, we are in trouble. It’s not the pursuit that is the problem. It’s the not being caught.

    1. Thanks, word geek! :) And can I borrow that phrase to mull on for a while? It’s not the pursuit that is the problem. It’s the not being caught…

      I think you’re on to something profound and very needed there. I fear sometimes we elevate our free will and independence at the high cost of feeling pursued and embraced by that inescapable drawing we’d feel if we’d hold still a moment…

      A beautiful, simple way to say something very important. You have the gift. :)

    2. Mick:

      Thanks for the compliment. (!) I may have told you at retreat that the Hound of Heaven pursued me in my wanderings for about 30 years before I surrendered at the age of 38. I have been grateful ever since that He kept pursuing me, kept presenting me with excellent Christian witnesses and people who were equipped in the Word to answer my multitude of questions, and then He caught me. I love words, I love courage, I love overcomers, and I love Christ, who is, now that I think about it, all of these.

      And before I was even saved, much earlier than that, in fact, I was given the gift of sobriety. That was 40 years ago. In the second year of that particular journey, I felt, or heard, an internal Voice – the one I now recognize as the Holy Spirit – telling me that my “fear is but a mist; all you must do is step through it, and you will find it is but gossamer”. With writing, or overcoming anything, I have had to remind myself of that truth.

      Fear is just a mist. Walk through. It winds up feeling like feeble cobwebs so delicate they become nothing as you pass. And the fear, like the webs, dissipates into what is only a memory. This is freedom.

  2. Very enlightening words, Mick. I sometimes wonder though if every writer must plunge into the abyss and experience the depth of the unknown. I think there are some who probably shouldn’t for various reasons. The mind is a delicate thing, more vulnerable than I think we realize. I believe God has given us anchors and set points that fit us individually, serving a very important purpose. In my old age, I have learned that diving into waters I’m not ready for, that I’m not strong enough to tread, only serves to drown me. I have found some go so deep, they cannot come through the decompression process unscathed, as they try to resurface to face regular life. I told a dear friend lately, sometimes it’s more productive to sip and savor the gift than to gulp it and become so overwhelmed we can’t function within the gift. I dion’t know if all this makes sense, I think maybe I’m not as strong as some who are willing to dive deep enough to see a new realm, and then to express that in their writing. I love how you have encouraged us to experience our gift in a more impacting way. That is the heart of a writer. We are special and unique – a curiosity to the rest of the world!

    1. Oh, my friend. I know what you mean. How can I assure you and I both that we’re enough because he is? I know how you feel because it’s what’s behind my passion to even write about this. I fear I’m not strong enough, deep enough, smart enough. The devil would convince us all that’s why we shouldn’t commit fully to this call, to stay safe and not delude ourselves with visions of grandeur.

      But another voice says it doesn’t matter what we have or don’t have, what we’ve done or haven’t done. Our inadequacy and inability is our greatest asset because when we know that and we step forward anyway, our weakness is his strength.

      Maybe it isn’t ultimately up to us to decide how deep or how far we go. Maybe it’s our job to trust and to stay with him where he leads. I wonder if that sort of fully-committed heart may be the only way to know the meaning of faith and to escape the fragility of the unconvinced mind.

      Or put differently, maybe only when there’s no safety net will we be sure we’re fully committed to letting him catch us.

  3. After months of dedicated writing I set my manuscript aside. I needed to let it get cold and other matters required my attention. Today, rather than a blank page I am faced with a stack of cluttered pages which need a scalpel. I do feel the craziness, but I am also compelled. This post is exactly the inspiration I needed to pick my writing back up, press on and seek the higher Voice who called me in the first place. Thanks for sharing. It makes me feel a little more sane, or at least that I am in good company.

    1. It’s a comfort when I get scared to remember if I do end up unbalanced, at least I’ll have a friend in the ward. You can count on me to be there with you, Vickie! :)

  4. Yes, for the higher purpose. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your words, your thoughts. I’m in awe at both.

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