Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obsession: Home

When I was in London I took an English course called Writing London, and we spent one whole class period discussing the idea that part of being a writer is obsession and addiction. We acknowledged that many great writers have had detrimental addictions, but also talked about the idea that in order to be any kind of successful writer, one must be completely obsessed with certain ideas and tropes, addicted to the belief that if one just writes one more time about that Thing, the Thing that grips you and keeps you up at night and follows you around relentlessly, it will solve everything.

We read an excerpt by a prominent author (it is a painfully obvious author, one that I will look up when I am feeling less lazy, one that I will be embarrassed not to have remember off the top of my head–maybe it wasn't an author, maybe it was Freud, whoever it was I am definitely going to be mortified that I couldn't just go look him up immediately, but being home makes me slothful and it's easier to type a few extra sentences about being embarrassed than it would be to get up, find my Writing London folder, flip through the sheets, and locate the author) that addressed this phenomenon. He wrote about traveling to a specific town and wandering around the town, but no matter how he wandered or what route he took, he ended up in the same spot: the road filled with the prostitutes. He didn't want to get away from that route, even though by wandering around he could pretend he wasn't stuck there. But he was, emotionally, intellectually, even physically. And I think that translates over well to the idea of writing: we write about certain ideas because we are stuck on them, fixated by them, totally and completely obsessed with them. We spend our whole lives writing about them, thinking it will help us move away from them, thinking it might help us make sense of them. It usually doesn't. It usually just makes us look like obsessive loons. But that's a writer, you know?

Anyway I've realized that one of my obsessions is Home, and what it means, and how it functions in a human's life once we leave it. In an act of serendipity made possible by the Internet, just as I was thinking about how one of my obsessions is Home, and I can finally acknowledge that, I got an email from The Photographer's Gallery in London (see, it all ties back together in the end, yes? No, not really, the Internet has just made the world one giant coincidence. But pretend with me for a moment.) Anyway the Gallery, which is one of my favorites, emails: "We want your stories & photographs for An Idea of Home!"
The word home conjures up many images, as well as posing many quesitons. What makes a home–the roof over your head, or knowing your neighbors? What does it mean for refugees, or the homeless? What makes a person leave their home–and how do you create home in a new country?
I'm glad they asked, because I want to know! Anyway they've started a Flickr group to explore the question and they want people to contribute. I just might. Check it out.

1 comment:

Sarah Alaoui said...

Great post :)

Us writers are definitely quirky people. Do you ever get an idea that's so amazing that you just walk aroudn all day thinking about it? Sometimes I find myself mouthing words aloud, not caring what people think...yikes. lol