Small Town, Big Life

The OCD of Writing October 28, 2006

Filed under: OCD,Uncategorized,Writing — handwritten @ 10:33 pm

I was leafing through a recent issue of Details that had been sent to my office when an article about OCD caught my attention. One particular section struck a chord with me. I think those of you out there who are writers will appreciate it.

“When I consider the problem-solving nature of writing fiction – how whatever book I happen to be working on is always broke, stuck, incomplete, a Yale lock that won’t open, a subroutine that won’t execute, yet day after day I return to it knowing that if I just keep at it I will pop the thing loose – it begins to seem to me that writing may be, in part, a disorder: sheer unfettered XO9 [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder]. Look at Borges with his knives and his tigers, or Nabokov with his butterflies, or Irving with his bears, or Plath with her camps and her ovens; look at every writer, writing the same damn story, the same poetry, returning endlessly to the same themes, the same motifs, the same locales, the same lost summer or girl or father, book after book. Why do you keep writing about gay men who are friends with straight men? people want to know. Why are bad things always happening to dogs in your books? What’s with all the sky similes? Why did you use the word spavined, like, 17 times in one novel? Sometimes I try to come up with sensible answers to these questions, logical explanations for these recurring tropes, motifs, and phrases, but in truth there’s only one honest answer that a writer in the grip of XO9 can give: I can’t help it.”

-Excerpt from All in the Family: After his son is diagnosed with OCD, the author examines a familial history of compulsive behavior by Michael Chabon. Details, November 2006 Issue.


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