Are You Obsessed?

I’ve always had obsessions. Some idea or project or subject will suddenly loom large in my mind and I can’t stop thinking about it. For a while, anyway.

For some reason I’ve always thought that if the obsession wasn’t going to last I should quell it as much as possible. Obsessions do pass (although some are recurring) and it seemed wasteful to pour so much time and energy into something I’d have moved on from in a few weeks’ time.

In my youth (all right, even now) I enjoyed completing questionnaires which purported to tell you something about yourself, whether serious (Myers-Briggs) or not (What Punctuation Mark Are You?*).

It was after completing one of the never-occasionally-sometimes-often-always variety that I realised I had only one ‘always’: when you are interested in something, do you want to read up on it?
Yes. Frequently more than I want to actually do the thing itself, which seems silly but saves a great deal of investment in short-lived fads.

I’ve had obsessions of various lengths with millinery, embroidery, steampunk, jesters, historical costuming and various periods of history including the fall of Tsarist Russia, Anglo-Saxon England, the Regency era and the social history of World War II – among other things.
And it all goes into the files for later, although as Kristen Lamb points out, writers tend to be ‘Masters of “Things Few Know and Fewer Care About”.’

I recall reading yet another book of self-understanding-through-classification which described people who collect information (this is me, I thought) showing their love for others by sharing bits of their collection with them. So to all who I have ever bored with random snippets of knowledge you never cared to know: I love you.

And then I came across this quote from Tamora Pierce: “The best way to prepare to have ideas when you need them is to listen to and encourage your obsessions.”
The relief! The validation! Importantly, not only can obsessions be useful to the writing life, but it isn’t just me. It’s lots of us. It could even be you.
So how do you tell if you have acquired a Writer’s Obsession? A questionnaire, of course 😀

1) Are you lying awake dreaming about it? (1 point per hour spent.)
2) Are you lying asleep dreaming about it? (2 points per dream.)
3) Do you have three or more library books on the subject at once? (1 point per book; double points if you bought them.)

Is this you?

4) Have you read all the books the library has on the subject, leaving you prowling the aisles in a frustrated search for more? (Two points; three if it’s a large library or you have access to interloans.)
5) Do you keep bringing it into conversations where it may or may not belong? (1 point per conversation.)
6) Are you marshalling your resources of spare time days ahead in order to maximise obsession-time? (1 point per day ahead multiplied by: 1 if you’re calculating in hours; 2 by half hours; 3 by 10-15 minutes.)
7) Do you trawl the internet by the hour, looking for a) information and b) some poor sap who’s as obsessed as you are? (1/2 a point per hour spent, doubled if you should have been doing something else at the time; and don’t worry, we’re here.)

If you had to get a piece of paper and a pen (or take your socks off) to calculate your score, you have an obsession! What is it? Do tell! All correspondence welcomed!

*semi-colon

Look Both Ways Before You Cross

Looking forward to the new year, but also looking back over the year just passed. Coincidentally, it has been exactly a year since I started this blog.

During that time I have written all of eighty-eight posts (although about 25 are simple quote-and-picture posts). Over the course of the year I have gone through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, reviewed various books on writing, and asked for advice on a myriad of subjects (moving house, staying sane…) which I mostly didn’t get.

I also set goals for myself (see here and here) which I mostly failed to meet, in that I did not finish my WIP by December 31st. But I did make some strides in taking myself more seriously as a writer and doing a bit of would-like-to-be-professional development. As with so many things, Work In Progress.

Among the questions which I have mulled over during the year are whether to keep using my nom de plume (my parents, by some oversight, failed to name me Sinistra at birth) and what precisely it is I am trying to achieve here.


This blog was originally intended as a form of accountability against procrastination, but since no-one is actually holding me accountable but me anyway, that purpose has taken a bit of a back seat.
Procrastination is apparently one of the mysteries of the human condition, as articulated by Paul back in the 50s AD: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.” (Romans 7:15, New Living Translation).

Motivation is perhaps key, but I struggle to find a motivation strong enough to overcome tiredness and self-doubt. Duty doesn’t cut it (unlike Frederic, I am not the Slave of Duty); ambition is by no means my strong suit – perhaps I just need to develop more character. Or a means of reminding myself of what it is I stand to lose.

In any case, over the coming year I hope to look more at subjects of interest to more than myself – that is to say, less of the writing, and more of the whatever-I-happen-to-be-obsessed-with-at-the-moment – steampunk, knitting, millinery, sustainability, odd bits of history, or any combination of the above.

Looking back, my most popular post by far (inasmuch as I can tell, since the majority of views are recorded as “homepage/archive”) is Great Wizards of Literature. I blush a little every time I see another hit on it, as it was originally titled Favourite Wizards of Literature, only some were more great than favourite. It wasn’t until after I had clicked ‘publish’ that I realised I had listed one of my own creations as a Great Wizard of Literature.

He isn’t great, really, but he’s doing his best. (If he’s very lucky, he may one day be published.) An excellent example of how not to blow your own trumpet.

You’re doing it wrong.

The gong for Most Under-Appreciated Post (from my point of view, anyway) goes to Mid-Week Quote: Reading, for the play on word(s) if nothing else.

On an entirely unrelated tangent, if your New Year’s Resolution includes being more generous, giving to charity, doing something good for someone else or even (aim high!) saving someone’s life, consider this from Throwim Way Leg, one of the blogs I follow.
Getting an ultrasound machine really will make a life-or-death difference to people in Papua New Guinea. Imagine if your local hospital had no ultrasound, no x-ray, no lab for tests… you get the idea.
And do please feel free to pass the link on to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanking you all for your company in 2013, and looking forward to your company in 2014, I remain,
Sinistra Inksteyne hand250

The Wheels Have Eyes

Today’s post was going to be an end-of-year blog round-up, but I have decided to delay until early January, which will be a year since the blog began.

Instead, to end the calendar year on a note of Really Rather Weird, I give you The Wheels Have Eyes.
No, not a Google spy-car, but the earliest piece of Steampunky writing I have yet come across, in the Bible.

Yep, Steampunk in the Bible. The Book of Ezekiel, to be precise, written in the late 500s BC. Or possibly the early 500s BC, depending on how you look at it. 593 BC et seq. anyway.

Ezekiel sees an approaching storm in which are four winged creatures with lightning darting between them. Corresponding to each creature is a wheel – or rather a wheel intersecting a wheel, with eyes around the rim. (Try describing that to a police artist.)

“When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.” (Ezekiel 1:21)

The spirit is in the wheels? Sounds steampunky to me. Not to mention the diamond light around the throne above said creatures, on which is seated a figure like molten metal rising out of fire.

In fact, a Baptist minister once designed an aircraft inspired by this very vision – a little more Da Vinci than Verne, perhaps, but fascinating nonetheless. These Magnificent Ministers and their Flying Machines…

So there you have it. Your scriptural steampunkiness for the day, brought to you by the letter E.

Enjoy your New Year celebrations (“general rejoicings, and in the evening – fireworks!”) and look forward with me to 2014.

Sinistra Inksteyne hand250