Thoughts on Obsession and Being On the Road Again

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Vermont last week, Chicago now, New Orleans next week, D.C. the week after.  My goodness, you’d think I was working again, which I am, though I try to tell myself that consulting jobs that add up to 10 or so hours a week isn’t really working.  And compared to my life as the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, it is very different.

But then I realize I’m on the road four weeks in a row and traveling makes the work a good bit more than 10 hours a week, and I wonder how I’m going to fit in an obsession with the memoir I’m working on.  Because becoming obsessed is my new assignment.

I do well with assignments, which I told Robin Hemley, the terrific writer and teacher I worked with last week at the Vermont College Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, so he gave me one.  Forget the book on the history of the movement to end violence against women that I’ve been planning to write for years (I’d asked him for some ideas about how to structure the book).  Forget the next volume of poetry I’m starting to shape in my head and on the page, steadily revising poems.  Forget the novel I wrote last year and haven’t looked at since, and the cycle of short stories, also partially in my head and partially on the page (or the computer’s hard drive).

“I’m not saying a book about ending violence against women wouldn’t be important, because of course that’s important,” he said.  “But this book (the memoir I brought to the conference for workshopping and feedback) is important.  Get obsessed and get it done.  This book could make a difference for a lot of people.”

“Really?” I said.  “I feel like I have writer’s ADHD.  I keep trying to work on all these different projects at once.”

Robin shook his head.  “No, you need to focus on this one book and get obsessed.  I live for obsession, the full engagement with creativity.”

He’s right.  The one book I’ve been truly obsessed with, The Truth About Death, is the one I’ve had published.  So how do I get obsessed as I travel for the next three weeks for various consulting jobs?  That’s a puzzle I haven’t quite figured out yet, but for now, I’m taking advantage of being in Chicago.

David and I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, first through Millenium Park, enjoying the Lurie Garden bursting with a wild variety of vegetation against a background of skyscrapers.  Then we walked over to the giant kidney bean of reflecting grass, called the Cloud Gate, which throws back looped and curving reflections.  Next were the glass brick tower waterfalls that create a flat pool perfect for splashing kids and barefoot tourists.  As we walked up Michigan Avenue to the Magnificent Mile we let all the sights and spectacles and smells of a great city wash over us, the lines of buildings and the curves of flower pots, poles and doorways and windows, sidewalk grates and bridges and towers and the river and the giant sprays of coleus that seem to be every where this summer.

I’m immersing myself in this experience, trusting that everything feeds my creativity and the energy I can bring to any obsession.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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