Hello everyone! It’s time for another post of me gushing about things that aren’t just topical, easy to discuss things. For a change though, my topic is actually writing related! (Shocking, I know!) Today, I’d like to tell you about a little problem I’ve had most of my life since I learned to read and spell. A little thing called…. Obsession.
I don’t know why or how it started. One day, I just noticed an error in the work I was reading. And, when I found the error, I stared at it. I stared hard, thinking, praying it would fix itself. I was certain it would, because I was a child at the start of this. But no, it didn’t change. I couldn’t will it. And, thus, I never got through it. I just kept staring, and staring, and staring some more.
When I hit middle school age, it became a bigger problem. Whether it was English class where we were learning grammar, or another class unrelated to language, I would stare at any issue I saw, even if it was done on purpose. Eventually, I started asking to answer each question regarding proper use of commas and the like, when three were on the board for three of us. I wanted all of them- because I couldn’t trust my classmates to get it right, and that’d just lead me down a spiral of despair. And this wasn’t even the worst of it.
In high school, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. No, this wasn’t because of errors on the chalk board, but it leads to my favorite story of just how badly my need to fix errors was perceived. You see, once you’re out of the psych ward for- for children, anyway- you get sent to what’s called ‘partial hospitalization’. Basically, it’s the gate between the hospital and normal life. The people that work there are mostly therapists and doctors, and they know all your problems, whether because you warned them or because they had your records from your stint in the hospital.
You’d think a therapist can keep their cool when they know a patient means no harm and has an issue where they can’t focus when they see an error. But this one time, I got lucky and found the one that didn’t fit that stereotype. She was telling us about mantras- you know, the things you say to yourself to calm down, or to meditate? But what she wrote on the board was manta. Like a manta ray fish. Naturally, this became my new focus- and, knowing myself, I automatically raised my hand and, when called on, corrected her mistake.
She exploded. “Oh, so now you’re a genius with foreign words too!?” I don’t remember if I pointed out to her mantra was considered a word in the English language too. Or, y’know, the fact it’s got the ‘r’ sound right in it. She was beyond pissed with me, and we never seemed to calm that storm she felt toward me since then. I wasn’t sure how to feel myself, however. To this day, I don’t know what I think of her.
Not everyone saw my obsession as a bad thing though. When I was a teenager, I dealt with the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). My DYFS worker couldn’t spell for her life, and she knew it well. She warned me before we were going to do an exercise of some sort that involved writing things down on her side, and told me to correct her anytime I saw a misspelling. Which was a lot. But the fact was, this woman accepted she was far from perfect, and gave my imperfection of obsessing over these things a new meaning.
I’ve made peace with myself over this obsession. I know it’s not healthy, so I try to tame it a bit, but I also know denying it is denying myself. Half the reason I do things like NaNoWriMo are because they promote accepting the imperfections in our writing as part of the process. And I need that, even if I fail to complete my story. I’ve been doing it almost every year for twelve years- that’s since I was fifteen! I’ve still got a long way to go, but knowing you have a problem is the first step to solving it, right?
That’s enough rambling for today. Why don’t you tell me some of the things that you’re obsessed with? Or just little pet peeves that drive you wild! I know I can’t be the only person around that can’t focus when certain things aren’t exactly as it feels they should be… Or can I?