Is Writing an Obsession?

I'm obsessed with writingI’ve been writing full time for five years and part-time for four and the more I write, the more obsessed I become. I suppose I could use the word passionate to describe how I feel about writing, but lately the word obsession seems more accurate.

And what are the clues that tell me I’ve tipped into the obsession zone? Consider these:

  • While trying to fall asleep, I compose sentences. Worse, I often get up to write them down so I won’t lose the creative thought.
  • While on the subway, in a plane, or at a restaurant, I takes notes about the features, gestures, clothing, or other attributes of the people I see. Sometimes I record what they say, a flirtation glance, an awkward moment.
  • I never go out without my small notebook, just in case inspiration strikes in the sounds, smells, tastes and sights around me.
  • I am jealous when I discover a beautifully crafted phrase in another author’s work. Such discoveries can easily undermine the confidence I may have been feeling about my own writing.
  • I look at the world around me in terms of my fictional characters. How would Grace react? What would Helene think? How would Edward feel?
  • I get distracted by a plotline that isn’t working or a flawed character arc or a chapter that doesn’t flow. Such distraction can strike at any time – while I’m driving, or out with friends, on the golf course, or watching TV.
  • I worry that a newly released book by another author will steal my intended audience, but in the next moment exult in the possibility that the very same book will help build an audience for my kind of writing.
  • I frequently realize that the house is dark except for the light at my desk where I have been writing for hours and hours. This realization is often accompanied by feelings of hunger because I’ve missed dinner.
  • I no longer read books without underlining interesting phrases or jotting ideas for one of my novels, a future story or blog post. I do this even when reading an e-book.
  • I can happily research for hours in order to compose one or two sentences.

Obsession – something that preoccupies a person to the exclusion of other things. Hmmm – sounds like obsession to me. Or is this how all writers behave?

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

 

Photos then and now

Recently, Mom gave me her parents’ photo album from their 1936 trip to France for the Vimy memorial dedication. Their pictures are a poignant reminder of a war that affected so many, and I, in my own small way, commemorated in Unravelled through a similar trip taken by Edward Jamieson and his wife Ann.

When my husband and I travelled to northern France, we attempted to visit some of the places where my grandfather had served during WWI. I knew he and my grandmother had done the same thing in 1936 but seeing their pictures made me realize we had photographed some of the very same places which brought a smile to my face.

Ypres Cloth Hall – only rubble was left of the Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) after WWI ended. Reconstruction began in 1928 and by 1934 the western wing and bell tower had been completed.  Judging by the background of the 1936 photo, it looks as though  my grandparents were standing in front of some remaining rubble. My grandfather was stationed was in the trenches near Ypres for many months of the war (he’s in this picture, my grandmother is the stylish-looking woman on the left).

Ypres Cloth Hall

 

Ypres Cloth Hall 1936

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vimy Memorial – if you have ever seen this amazing memorial you will have struggled to keep your tears in check. Vimy Memorial 1936

It’s a Canadian memorial, dedicated to all who served in WWI and built at Vimy to commemorate a battle won decisively by the Canadians.

Vimy MemorialOver 5,000 people attended the dedication ceremony – my grandparents were there.

 

Trench preserved at Vimy – I can’t be sure that these photos are taken at the same location, however they look very similar. Unlike these pristeen looking specimens, the trenches were a living hell. Imagine being one of the men visiting in 1936, remembering what it was like to eat, sleep, stand guard, and fight from the trenches.

Vimy Trench

Vimy trench 1936

 

Vimy Salute – During the dedication ceremony, planes flew past to pay tribute to those attending and those who died in battle. I wrote of this moment in Unravelled.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 9.55.07 AM“To begin the dedication, a lone bugler played Last Post, its haunting sound echoing across the ridge. Tears ran freely: tears for fallen comrades, tears for lost youth, tears for what was and what might have been. When the last note faded, a formation of Amiot 143s, French twin-engine bombers, roared across the horizon. For Edward, time slid backwards …”

Cambrai was another stop on their tour. Grandpa served there as well. He was in the Signal Corps, involved in transmitting messages during the heat of battle by whatever means were necessary. 180,000 soldiers from Britain, Canada and New Zealand were involved in Cambrai – part of the Hundred Days War and the last big effort by the Germans. The time was early October 1918.

My grandparents took two pictures – ours are very similar.

Cambrai Town HallCambrai Town Hall 1936Cambrai Porte Cambrain Porte 1936

 

 

After such an emotional time my grandparents went to Paris and then to England visiting Oxford where my grandfather was born and Magdalen College where his father worked before emigrating to Canada. Mom recalls that they were gone all summer leaving her at a girls camp and my uncle with relatives. Grandma and Grandpa returned to Toronto to learn of the death of my great-grandfather.

When I began writing, my objective was to investigate the lives and times of my grandparents. The research was inspirational; the result is Unravelled.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. UNRAVELLED is also available at the same retailers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Shelfie

Writer's ShelfieDerek Birks author of Feud, A Traitor’s Fate and Kingdom of Rebels tagged me to create a ‘writer’s shelfie’ with books that are important to my writing. I chose ten which seemed like a reasonable number, although I could have selected a lot more.

Letters of Agar Adamson – nothing beats real letters and diaries for helping a writer to appreciate WWI with small details on conditions and everyday soldiering. Agar’s are superb and I’ve written about them in the past.

Vimy by Pierre Berton – the battle for Vimy Ridge features in both of my published novels and will get a mention in my next novel as well. Berton’s non-fiction account has been my companion for at least five years. It is well thumbed and underlined.

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris – this non-fiction memoir has nothing to do with war, however, it has everything to do with the human spirit and what are writers without exploring the human spirit?

Three Day Road and Deafening are novels written about the Canadian experience of WWI. Boyden and Itani are excellent writers – so I have looked to them for both war and technique.

I consult The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and Write Away by Elizabeth George regularly. Lukeman brings an agent’s perspective while George talks more about writing as craft and process. Several other writing books are on my shelves.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje is an example of writing at its finest. Inspiration lies in every paragraph.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is one of THE books on WWI.

The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson is a story told in poetry. At times I find a phrase that speaks to me and prompts my own writing. I have another book of poetry and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations that I also use in this way.