Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obsessed Much?

Yeah, I wasn't going to post today but it looks like that's gone down the tubes. Oh well.

What I wanted to do was expand on Ms. Hurley's guest blog topic of obsession because, I think anyway, there seems to be a trend happening in YA as of late. defines "obsess" as--

–verb (used with object)
1. to dominate or preoccupy the thoughts, feelings, or desires of (a person); beset, trouble, or haunt persistently or abnormally: Suspicion obsessed him.
–verb (used without object)
2. to think about something unceasingly or persistently; dwell obsessively upon something.

1. possess, control, haunt.

I think the term "obsessed" is used lightly, especially in the scope of the definition. I say I'm obsessed with The Lost Boys but it's not all-consuming. It doesn't dominate my thinking, it doesn't haunt me and I don't live for it. I have a massive collection of TLB memorabilia but I'm not pulling it out and looking at it on a daily basis.

The very definition of obsess is for the person to be consumed by the object of obsession. That object gives them a one track mind. All they thing about, all they live for, all they care about it that obsession, thus making it an obsession, not just something you enjoy doing or want to accomplish.

One commenter on the Author Bites post asked, "Have you ever known anyone who ever achieved anything without being obsessed with it?" I achieved graduating high school and college without being obsessed with it. I achieved traveling Europe without being obsessed with it. I achieved writing my first book without being obsessed with it. Accomplishments are made every single second of every single day without people abandoning everything else in their lives to become obsessed with something. If that were the case, we'd have a lot of crazy, and lonely, people in the world.

Ms. Hurley states that some obsession can be good, like those obsessed with curing cancer. But do you have to be obsessed with curing cancer to find a cure? I know a guy whose job it is to research drugs to cure cancer. That's what he does. Tries to save lives every single day he goes to work. I've also done tequila shots with him so I can tell you right now he's not obsessed with his job because his job doesn't consume him. He has a life. He has friends. He has hobbies and drinking buddies. But he's not obsessed.

I think being determined is being bled into a pseudo-definition of obsessed. When you are obsessed, you've reached an extreme. It's in its definition. You are compulsively reaching for this obsession, bordering on mental instability. But someone just as determined to reach that same goal, but is capable of stepping away from that path every once in a while, will be just as likely to reach that end, without losing everything.

Bella is obsessed with Edward. She forfeits her own goals of not turning out like her mother, married and knocked up at 18, to do just that because Edward is all-consuming. The very definition of Bella's self is Edward. And she gets him in the end. Does it make her obsession OK or healthy because she achieved her goal? Is it OK to leave your friends by the wayside and toss aside your own goals in order to chase your obsession and ultimately get it? Maybe from the inside looking out but the outside looking in . . .

The doctor trying to find a cure for cancer becomes so consumed with it that his wife leaves him, taking the kids. He loses his house, bills go unpaid, his own hygiene becomes a factor. He dies without finding a cure, making all of his sacrifices for naught. Or he finds a cure before he dies. Does it justify the sacrifice? Sure, he's saved millions of people, but he hasn't saved himself. People will thank him but his ex-wife won't talk to him and his kids tell him to fuck off. He doesn't have a home to go to and, since he's reached his obsession, no longer has anything to live for. He reached his obsessive goal. Was it worth it?

That may sound extreme but the very act of being obsessed is in and of itself extreme.

I am determined to get my books published. But I have more on my mind than writing. Doesn't mean I'm not going to achieve my goals because they don't occupy my every waking thought. Doesn't make me any less worthy of achieving my goals. It just allows me to have more in my life than just my writing. It allows me to have a job, family, friends, a life. Obsession does not. There's no room for anything but that obsessed object.

I don't like the idea of promoting obsession as OK so long as you achieve your goals. Sure, you may come across people you never would have, but if you're truly obsessed, would you give a shit? And what would you lose on your way to your obsessive goal? Would it be worth it? Don't worry, those news friends will replace the old ones? Or pray to whatever god you think exists that those old ones will still be there when you're done? Not all are so forgiving. In fact, many are not. People don't like being shoved aside.

What do you think? Do you think there are varying degrees to obsession or is it a word that's been misconstrued over time? Do you think obsession is OK so long as you get what you're seeking? What do you think of obsession in YA? Edward and Bella in Twilight, Dee and Luke in Lament and any other number of books with relationships where one party is wholly consumed by the other (because it seems you just can't escape romance in YA lately). Have you ever been obsessed? And I'm not talking facetiously. I'm talking about textbook definition as stated above where people had to have a WTF? intervention with you to try and slap some sense into you.

Speak up.

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