I’ve always had a bit of a compulsive personality. Small obsessions have taken hold of my psyche more times than I care to admit until they blossomed into life-changing decisions. And it’s been this way for as long as I can remember.
Explaining these compulsions to people without this problem is pointless. If you haven’t experienced this emotion, I can’t explain it to you, not really. But I’ll give it a shot.
Imagine, you’re on vacation. You’re sitting at a wine bar in Pirate’s Alley of Jackson Square in New Orleans. It’s a warm April night. It’s just rained. The air is full of music and sex and humidity as only the air in New Orleans can be. And you breathe it and when you do, you have a small little thought. Just a notion. “I could live here.”
Four little words that plant a seed in your brain and root down so fast that by the time you have finished your glass of wine, your decision is made. You will go home. You will sell all your belongings, pack only what you need, end your relationship, quit your job and move to a city where you know no one and where you’ve only spent forty-eight hours exploring.
And the really insane thing is that you follow through with it.
That, my friends, is compulsion.
From the outside looking in, I make major decisions at breakneck speeds. And there’s a reason for that. I do.
No holds barred, bare knuckle street fighting decision making. That’s my process.
And once I’ve made a decision, just you try and keep me from following through with it. It’s an unstoppable force. I will not stop until I have been bloodied to a point past recognition.
I have a friend who often teases me about my vigorous writing regimen and release schedule for the Clementine Toledano Mysteries. What I can’t explain to him is that writing is just my latest compulsion. One that I cannot contain and one that I struggle to control.
And for a long time, I felt guilty about it. Why should I take up this much space for my creative obsessions? Maybe I’m being selfish. Maybe I’m being unfair to those around me. And maybe I am, but if I wasn’t writing there would be other compulsions driving me. Painting a room because I suddenly hate the color. Ripping up a corner of the lawn because I’ve decided to create a garden. That these physical manifestations of my strange personality have benefited others has often been my justification for indulging in them.
But my books benefit others. Just not those immediately around me. People buy them. People read them. Judging from my Amazon rating, people enjoy them. But most importantly, I benefit from them and in and of itself, that should be justification enough.
I’ve mentioned before how writing has helped me to become more self-aware. And that self-awareness has led me down a fairly dark path with my heroine.
In Chasing Those Devil Bones, we meet Q and Derek’s stalker. Burn Bitch Burn, so named because that is the moniker they use to sign their letters. And BBB has a singular desire: for Q and Derek to live happily ever after somewhere on the outskirts of the Never Never.
The stalker situation came to being while I was drafting the seventh book of the Clementine Toledano Mysteries and as I wrote the books that had to come before, I threaded it into their plots. But why? Because there is a part of me that wants to understand my own obsessive personality. And there is another part of me that understands an unchecked obsession or compulsion is a dangerous thing.
Mary Higgins Clark once said:
“I have a need to write. There are people who would like to write, there are people who have a genuine talent for writing, and there are the rest of us — those of us who become known, who truly need to write. And it is a need, like eating or brushing your teeth. We write in the morning, we write in the afternoon, we write on the back of a piece of paper, we get up early, we stay up late, because we simply are compelled to write.”
So, I guess I’m in good company then, because that’s exactly how it feels inside my brain when I’m working on words. For me, there is nothing as freeing; nothing as frustrating; and nothing as fully satisfying as crafting a good book.
And one day, as MHC says, this compulsion will lead to more than just the self-satisfaction of scratching that itch. But for today, I’m satisfied with the words themselves. The words that sustain me. The words that create worlds I get to inhabit and share with whomever reads them.
And that’s enough.