There are two definitions for the word compulsion.
compulsion |kəmˈpəlSHən| noun
1 the action or state of forcing or being forced to do something; constraint:
2 an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, esp. against one’s conscious wishes:
It sounds like an ugly word. Kind of like ‘repulsion.’ And by definition, a ‘compulsion’ doesn’t sound so nice.
I have a compulsion to write. To me, this is a great thing. To most people around me, it’s not.
So many people badger me about my writing. Most don’t seem to understand what writing does for me. One friend compared my need to write to his need to play video games. This surprised me… that he could think these two things are the same. If he was compelled to develop video games, I would understand. But to play? To me, playing video games is more akin to reading rather than writing… then again, I wasn’t admitted in the gifted and talented program in elementary school because I sucked at analogous relationships. (And THAT is something most people don’t know about me.)
Am I often compelled to read? Hell, yes, I am. I just went through it this past week with Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. Even with a migraine, I craved to finish the books. I had to buy the audiobook to finish the second book because I couldn’t read with the headache. And then, once I start a book, I like to completely immerse myself in whatever world the author has created. It consumes me. Five hours straight of reading/listening is not unheard of… in fact, I prefer it. I love that.
But the enjoyment I get out of reading is not the same as what I get out of writing. I love when books make me think, but I love creating my own worlds and characters much more. I love it. I want it. I need it. Physically, mentally, physiologically I need to write. When I don’t, I fall apart. It’s as if my brain gets so cluttered that I feel like I lose control of everything… the imaginary life I’m creating… and myself, in my real life. I get sad, depressed. I feel guilt, and remorse, and stress, and out of breath, panicked, and lost.
Do I think writing is the only creative outlet I could use to rid myself of these negative feelings? No. But the important piece in this is ‘creativity.’ Over the years, I’ve had other compulsions. Obsessions, some would call them. There was photography and digital editing. There was jewelry making. There was a two-year pursuit of an invention that could have probably been something if I hadn’t pushed the creative boundaries as far as they could go and grown bored with it. With all of those other things, though, there were self-imposed boundaries that I couldn’t cross that killed the creative process.
With writing, I feel unfettered. I feel like there are no boundaries, and my brain keeps churning out new people and worlds and situations on its own. It’s effortless to me. The ideas come to me even when I don’t want them to. I record or write down as much as possible, as much as I need to push me forward the next time I sit down to write. I’d worried when I started writing that I’d give up on it like I’d given up on other things, but the thought to quit has never once crossed my mind since I started. It helps when there are friends around who push me forward and urge me to continue so they can read more of what I write… but even without them, and without sales, I know that this is something I want to do. That I need to do. For myself, above all.
These characters are a part of who I am, and letting them live and breathe keeps me alive and breathing. It’s symbiotic, what we do. Without them, I have nothing. Without me, they have nothing. To me, it’s a beautiful thing, and it’s helped me to except a certain level of insanity that I truly think I carry with me every day. The good thing is, I’ve met so many other authors and artists who say the same thing. Among those people, my insanity is normal. Expected, even.
What I’ve discovered is that I need more artists and visionaries in my life. I love my close circle of friends, I do, but very few of them can truly accept me for who I am and the way I live my life. Few of them can accept that I’d rather spend an evening with Steven or Emi or Livvy than with them. Hardly any of them will engage me in the dreamy alternate-reality conversations I’d like to have. So many of them want me to change.
Leave your apartment more.
Go more places.
Meet new people.
Watch TV (what?!!).
I’m not wired that way… and that’s okay. I’m compelled to write. It’s my passion. It’s not a bad thing at all. It’s what I do, and it’s what I do best. And I will no longer make apologies for my differences. Now if I could just get everyone around me to embrace them.