Sunday, August 9, 2009

On Obsessions

By Brianna McPherson

Ladies and gentlemen, I need to be honest with you. I am a hobby freak. Just within the last year I made a short film, took a singing class, bought a new watercolor set, indulged in various paper crafts, jewelry making and am currently teaching myself how to play the baritone ukulele. I don't say these things to impress you. (As if anyone could be impressed by my clumsy string plucking or sloppy paper folding!) To be completely honest all this hobbying is kind of frustrating, expensive and time consuming. The worst part, though, is that after I hit one little success in my hobby I'm off to my next new thing and won't return to the hobby I had been working so hard to master for months, perhaps even years. I've been doing this since I started college, when I was presented with unsupervised free time and bank account. I bought scads of fabric for (mostly unsuccessful) dress making, piano charts for songs I still can't play, a Food Network cookbook that I have opened only once, a tennis racket that has spent most of its life in the trunk of my car, among many other silly and strange things.

So far in my life I have only run into a few "hobbies" that I just can't get rid of: writing, spirituality and feminism. If those three things occupy the majority of my time, energy, thoughts and money, then what in the hell am I doing with a henna kit and a "how to draw manga" book? I'm not exactly sure yet, but recently I have been affirmed in my obsessive search for an obsession. When I was applying to Hollins, I found a little passage on their MFA website:
[W]e are pleased to see someone’s got obsessions. Fly-fishing, quilting, medieval Japan, the Fibonacci series, Indian motorcycles, goats, progressive jazz, the Appalachian trail, whatever—if there’s something out there in the world a student finds compelling, we feel hopeful. If it’s several somethings, even better.
Now, I always knew a strong sense of curiosity in the world around you is a sign of life in a writer. Even better, there's a grad program out there that wants me to be more than a writing machine. That's a heavy task to take on. I've always felt uneasy about taking on the persona of "the writer." That label conjures up images of somebody hunched over their laptop, moodily jabbing the keys and screening phone calls with the thought don't they know I'm writing? While I have been known to lock myself in my room from time to time, I am not just a writer. I am a woman who writes and has way too many art supplies for her own good. Maybe one day all of the experiences of pricking myself with needles, setting off the fire alarm in my apartment building and my misadventures with the tennis wall will come together in an elegant and coherent essay, but for now I am happy that these a simply signs of a healthy writer's life.


  1. Sounds like you're really obsessed with creativity in general, at least that's how I explain my varied interests to myself. In the last few years I've taken guitar lessons, vocal lessons, took up knitting (but only for Christmas), songwriting, recording, screenwriting, became obsessed with addictions and the people who have them, and of course there's always poetry. It's cool your program actually gives a shoutout to obsessions.

  2. I know the feeling...

    I am currently debating whether I want to bring an electric keyboard I inherited from a family member to San Francisco. I bought a beginning piano book for it and every thing, but that was before I got into the MFA program!

    I've also toyed with the idea of working on my photography, make rejection letter jewelry, learning French, learning belly dancing, and taking an intuitive painting class. Lord knows when I'm going to find time to do these things, but that won't stop me from trying. :-)

    I like to think that creativity is a muscle and no matter how you're working that muscle it is getting stronger over time. *Meanwhile, the unfinished poem in my notebook glares at me in disgust.*

  3. Lovely post, Brianna. What a lovely writer you are.

    I can definitely relate. My obsession of the moment is Bikram Yoga. Between the class fees and all the cute outfits I had to buy in order to get motivated to go to said classes it has cost me a fortune! But I feel that with my program about to start I need to be forcing myself to do something physical regularly.

  4. This was excellent, Briana.

    I can relate to the ever shifting carousel of interests too. I was into dinosaurs when I was a kid, and drawing on the magnadoodle, I still draw little comic books now.

    Lately, beyond singing (which is always on the back burner) I have been wanting to get into dance...ballroom, hip hop, ballet, I want it all! Yoga appeals to me too Jennifer. And gardening. And cooking. You get the idea :-P

  5. What a great post. I call myself a hobby-slut :) I always have a new one that I want to try out. Unfortunately, most only last a few weeks, but I still enjoy that I have tried so many things. I think that it makes it easier to talk to new people because often I have at least passing experience, or enough to be conversational about something they are interested in.

  6. I have a little bit of a problem with hobbies too, especially as they pertain to books about those hobbies....

  7. Yeah, henna kit!

    I love hobbies. My new thing is having psuedo-hobbies, which are hobbies that I envision undertaking, but that I haven't in fact, er, undertaken. These include (but are not limited to) growing an herb garden, opening an Etsy shop, calligraphy, oil painting, and anything aquatic.

    Anyway, I really liked Hollins' blurb on obsessions. Great stuff.

  8. Ahhhh! This is wonderful, Brianna. And it's great to see everyone talk about their own mini-obsessions.

    I've been loving all of your posts, and feel bad that I haven't had time to comment more. I've just been crazy busy---I just moved into my new apartment here in Minneapolis (and I mean to post about it soon.) I'll be more present when I'm more caught up. But I'm reading!

    I have a keyboard coming with me, too. I took a piano class my freshman year, and I really loved it. But within three weeks of finishing the class my music-reading ability completely disappeared, and I'm not even sure I could find middle C now. I want to try to start again.

    I love collage, love cooking, love travel books, I've been known to scrapbook (don't tell!), used to like beading/making earrings, pressing flowers, sewing. And then of course there's blogging...

  9. I feel bad now, because I don't have any hobbies. But that FAQ PDF on the Hollins' website (which is hard to find by the way) gave me a lot of hope as to the type of program it is, and gave me confidence to apply.

  10. Ah, yes, hobbies and obsessions... I dabble in painting and collage, and I took belly dancing for a year, I run, and I cook. When I have money, I like to try all sorts of exotic recipes and buy cool kitchen gadgets. I have dreams of someday hiking the Appalachian Trail.

    I do like that paragraph from the Hollins website; it's just very encouraging and nice!


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