I See Imaginary Children

I get these obsessions. They overtake my writing, work their way in and force me. For a while it was Quetzalcoatl (to be specific, my own weird idea of what Quetzalcoatl should be like). That snake bird god thing showed up constantly in the things that I wrote. I’d star a story about a failing relationship and out of nowhere the beast would show up. Almost f his own volition.

Then it was crows. I thought about crows all the time, and everything I wrote somehow involved crows. It took me months to write that out. I had to expel the crows through the writing.

And alligators.

Now I am obsessed, controlled by alligators. Not a specific alligator. Not a real alligator. Rather this is the alligator; my conception of the perfect, god alligator. An imaginary alligator. It haunts my dreams. Even when I dream about something unrelated to alligators, the thing creeps in as an allusion.

Now, I know that we all (I guess) obsess about sex and death and that sex and death have a big role to play in writing, but my question is: does this happen to every writer? Do you all get weird ideas and obsessions that creep into your writing? If so, is this a good thing? How do you deal with it?




  1. Obsessions are a big part of being a writer and of being human. Writers are kinda lucky in that they get to explore theirs in their work, play with them and maybe even occassionally decode them.

    I get obsessed with things all the time – places, objects, pieces of music – they come and go; it’s part of my make-up….but the trick to ask yourself is: why am I suddenly interested in this particular thing/topic. What triggered it? What does it mean – what place does it have in my own personal mythology? Why has it surfaced now?

    I usually incorporate it in my writing or music in some way; play around with the themes that it seems to suggest and let it subtly drive the story. Later, I’ll step back and try and figure out what the story is trying to tell me about myself – what am I trying to resolve here? What part of myself is trying to say hello, etc. In this way I try and let my work affect a series of personal transformations on me. It adds another layer beyond those visible to the reader.


  2. The first short story I ever wrote and new it was “good enough” involved a strange obsession with trains. I lived near some tracks back in Muncie, IN, and I would lay awake a night with the first line resonating in my head, “She’s bald, but this isn’t a cancer story. I mean, she has cancer, but it’s not about that. There’s a blanket over her legs, and she’s reading,” and I thought, “Fuck, what is it about then? What is she reading?” The train whistles would blow and blow.

    Then, after about 2-3 weeks lying in bed and repeating that line and asking that question, I scribbled in the dark the next line, “She asks me if I know what year the Trans-American railroad was finally connected,” and I was off. I read about trains for probably a month, dug up everything from books, to wiki pages, to photos upon photos of trains, I found out it was actually called the Central Pacific Rail, instead of laying in bed at night, I’d walk over to the railyard and just watch and listen to the trains, I called my uncle who works on rails, my grandma to ask her stories about my grandpa from when he was a brakeman, and it finally turned into a story call “The Train to Promontory Point,” and it was the first story I ever knew was good enough.


  3. sobek dragged himself from the primordial muck of the nile to help create the world. He is also a killer of men.



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