Name Your Obsessions
I have a great belief in the act of actually taking out pencil and paper. I'm in sort of old fashioned girl pencil and paper. Could you do it? You could do it on your laptop, Um, and naming your obsessions. Um, and you might say, these are my obsessions. For God's sake, the last thing I need to do is write them down. I know them all too well. They get into trouble, they get me into trouble all the time. I'm gonna urge you to actually get past that and write them down. Look at them and not just one time, but keep an ongoing list. After all these years of writing, I still add to my obsessions list. Um, because when I don't know what I'm going to write about and that still happens to me, sometimes that list is going to steer me right. It's going to inform what I should be doing. So let's take a look at some obsessions. What is an obsession? Baseball. It doesn't happen to be one of mine, but actually, I I can get into a good, uh, Red Sox game now and then. Um, dogs. Yes, There's no such th...
ing. Incidentally, as a bad obsession or a wrong obsession, some obsessions can get you in trouble in the world. For sure. I'm not recommending every obsession be acted on, but but this is the moment in your life when even all the things that have created trouble everywhere else are rich material for you to explore cowboy boots. This is an obsession of mine. I'll tell you, um, I did. I'm not wearing them today, but just because I wanted to show off other shoes that I'm obsessed with, But, uh, they're not always big things. You notice my mother's death. That is a big thing. My mother died almost 30 years ago, and I still go back and back and back to that experience and to the loss of her. And, of course, there's no way to talk about the loss of a person without talking about who the person waas that you lost. Um, so she's a recurrent theme in my writing is those of you who are familiar with my of might know on din fact. She's going to be in this room with us today. I'll just mention my mother, um, was my first and best teacher of writing. Um, and 30 years after her death, she's so she's not even perched on my shoulder. She's embedded in my brain, and part of my mission today is to embed some of her wisdom and yours. So you're going to hear some of her thoughts. She was, ah, wife and mother of the fifties. Brilliant, uh, a passionate, talented, driven woman, highly educated, who, like so many women of the wives and mothers of the fifties, didn't really get a chance to have a career. So guess who was her career? Um, some of us have that story, I think, with our mothers, and and she taught me well, and I I honor her every single time I talk about about writing. So my mother's death Big one food huge. Um, and when we talk about an obsession, we connect ourselves with it. Ah, person could write about the importance of organic food the best way Thio cook fish. But I want you to connect your own personal experience with the big subject that obsesses you. Ice skating. That's me. And incidentally, I'm not a very good skater. I just love to skate. I actually there's somebody in this room I've skated with and we may we may hear from her today. But what I what you need to do when you identify an obsession is go a little deeper and say, Why are you obsessed with that? I'm never going to make it to the Olympics. What is it that ice skating represents to me? What does food represent to me? Maybe my mother, maybe Certainly comfort. Um, maybe an escape. What does ice skating represent to me? Well, I actually I think I know it has to do with the It's the closest way that I know to taking flight, putting on a pair of ice skates, and I have very little interest in skating rinks. My ice skating obsession has to do with getting on a river, the Joni Mitchell song about this and just taking off. Um, so understand it. Actually, if anybody saw the movie of To Die for my my novel, you'll know what the last the last scene in to Die for shows a character, uh, skating on a pond frozen pond with the body of Nicole Kidman in the in the ice. Um, I just if you actually I'm not proposing that you do this, but if you sat down and read all everything I've ever written, you would know some of my obsessions. They pop up in odd places like Well, here's one. Actually, I haven't written about yet, but it's on my list. Ah, major car accident from 1970 when I was 16 years old. Four boys at my school, um, had too much beer and crashed into another car with three people from another school. And they all died. Um, and everybody in my small town in New Hampshire knows about that accident and it stays with me. And I think about it maybe not once a week, but certainly once a month. At least. I carry that with me and I keep it on my obsession list, and someday I know I'm going to write that story. Social Justice. Here's an example of a big global topic very far away from ice skating or cowboy boots, and it's a perfectly valid, obviously significant, important obsession. The peace to connect to that makes the story yours because you're never going to get an editorial in The New York Times writing about all the things that you think should be changed in the world is your personal platform, where you connect with your passion for social justice. And maybe it is with something that's happened in your own life. Dolly Parton. Do I need to say anything? I will. I will say something because I am obsessed with Dolly Parton. And I have been obsessed with Dolly Parton since I first heard. Heard her and I think 1971. I followed her passionately. She got to meet her a couple of times and I pay homage to her all the time. And, um, I could write a report on the career of Dolly Parton. I know many facts about where she grew up. Sevierville, Tennessee, and the little cabin. And we, you know, I could tell you about the coat of many colors. Incidentally, a fabulous story, among other things, among apart from being a great singer, Um, and a great dresser, in my opinion, um, Dolly Parton is just a plain old great storyteller. Um, but I need to go deeper and ask myself, Why am I obsessed with Dolly Parton? What on earth is my connection to Dolly Parton?
Try a Fast Class – now available to all Creator Pass subscribers! Fast Classes are shortened “highlight” versions of our most popular classes that let you consume 10+ hours in about 60 minutes. We’ve edited straight to the most popular moments, actionable techniques, and profound insights into bite-sized chunks– so you can easily find and focus on what matters most to you. (And of course, you can always go back to the full class for a deep dive into your favorite parts.)
Full-length class: Writing Your Story with Joyce Maynard
SUBSCRIBE TO CREATOR PASS and cue up this class and other FAST CLASS classes anytime.
Everyone’s got a story to tell. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. Others are tragic. But no matter how compelling your story might seem, it won’t resonate with readers unless you’re able to effectively translate your concept onto the page.
Celebrated journalist, novelist, and memoirist Joyce Maynard will give you the tools you need to transform your brilliant idea into an absorbing memoir that readers won’t be able to put down.
Maynard will begin by walking you through the process of identifying your story and how best to tell it. She’ll then help you develop your story through language, story structure, dramatic tension, dialogue, description, and editing. Finally, she’ll address the challenges of the writing life, such as how to create a productive practice, design a comfortable writing space, deal with rejection, and find an audience.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Understand the difference between telling what happened and exploring your journey.
- Figure out what to include in your story and what to cut out.
- Decide on a point of view, a point of entry, and a structure.
- Get over your fears of revealing embarrassing truths about yourself.
- Stop worrying about being judged.
- Deal with loneliness and find your tribe.
- Develop the arc of a sentence, a paragraph, and a story.
- Listen to the sound and rhythm of your sentences.