Reflections on Obsessions

Often the guidance provided by a car GPS can be perplexing. During the programing of travel priorities, the driver can choose:

  • the fast route
  • the scenic route
  • the green route

If not paying particularly close attention, one can make a hasty choice, only to discover too late in the driving day that the selection was not optimal for that day’s schedule. This very thing happened during my recent book tour while my spouse and I were travelling between Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and St. Louis, Missouri .  After seeing miles of lush, rolling hills with flourishing rows of corn, and acres of wheat, we meandered through the “business section” of Dickeyville, Wisconsin, and concluded we must have unwisely chosen the scenic route.

Passing through  the sleepy farm town, an unusual sight flashed by: tall stone pillars supporting a metal arch proclaiming Holy Ghost Park.


Quickly maneuvering a u-turn in mid-block, ignoring protests from our GPS voice guidance system, we parked and ventured into this unusual wonderland of stone, mortar, and assorted odd bits of colored glass, pottery shards, sea shells, sparkly ores, and wood. It was a dazzling array. Where to look first?


HGP Entrance
HGP Entrance

Across the pavement, I saw a teen-type person perched behind a desk, a look of expectation etched on her freckled face. I ventured her direction and engaged in conversation. This volunteer tour guide of the day looked to be about thirteen. I expected an explanation of the site but she breathlessly launched into a personal update: she was currently living with her grandma here in Dickeyville while her dad and older brother worked on restoring their house in another town which had recently been ravaged by a tornado. She said thankfully she was away from her home during the storm and when she first saw her house she thought maybe her brother had had a really great party with his buddies. I offered my condolences and was relieved when she pulled out a spiral notebook and proceeded to regale me with the history of the monument. I learned this folk art exhibit was the work of one of their former parish priests. The monument took him from 1925 to 1930 to complete. I wondered how he had time for saying mass, hearing confessions, or composing homilies. We roamed about, snapping photos. I mentally marveled at the good father’s obsession, expressing his love of God and his Country using his native artistic skills. Ready to depart, we thanked our greeter and gave her a tip for her time. She said all donations went to the church. She was “free.”


Driving on, I mused about this excellent example of an obsession. The artist must have been driven to add just one more icon, statue or walk way to a growing monument to his ideals.

What about more common obsessions? The pantry filled with chips, salted nuts, and chocolates which incessantly beckon on the first day of a weight reduction diet. Or maybe the hidden pack of cigarettes that slide out when opening the desk drawer during the first successful day on the no-smoking wagon. And teens seem obsessed with fitting in, yet they search for a niche that will make them stand out among their friends. At thirteen, my daughter developed a “strawberry” obsession. She wore strawberry adorned clothes, hung gaudy-framed dime-store prints of plates heaped with the fruit, and at every social event she attended, her hostess would assure her strawberries were somewhere on the party menu.

I have decided that if one is to be a successful writer, an obsession or two is a good thing. The need to eavesdrop on people in public places, appearing to be the idle stroller yet in reality being a keen observer, is a good thing. Interrupting a routine daily task, such as flossing and brushing, to jot down an inspiration to embellish a short story or define a pertinent character flaw in a protagonist, is a good thing. Needing to read and write daily despite interruptions, interfering priorities, and time limitations is a good thing. Persistence in shamelessly promoting one’s latest novel or short story or magazine article is a good thing. And maybe selecting the scenic route on an overland excursion which takes this writer to a unique place that inspires is a good thing. What is your obsession that you can channel into writing success?

6 thoughts on “Reflections on Obsessions

  1. Mine is revision. After my play reading a few weeks ago, in which I received tons of great audience feedback, I was up until about three in the morning crossing out huge chunks of the script. By the way, if you are ever in Cullman, Alabama, check out Ave Maria Grotto. Here is the website:

    1. Ah yes, revising needs to be an obsession. Especially the painful “kill your darlings” part. The Grotto looks like my kind of place. Thanks for sending it.

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