Day 4: Past Obsessions

Day 4, open the door…

You know when you get suuuuuuper into something and it becomes your entire identity for a little while? A new hobby or fandom or weird niche interest or collection (or—if you’re lucky—a particular story idea!).

Chances are these kinds of hyperfixations were even more intense when you were a kid because, y’know, we didn’t have to worry about taxes or capitalism or social media and stuff, so we had more time to throw ourselves completely and unashamedly into our obsessions. 

For example: 

  • Aged 10, I spent an entire term of school exclusively drawing barn owls in every available space of my exercise books
  • My youngest son wore a bowler hat he found in the dressing up box almost every day for a year when he was 3
  • My eldest son had a Midnight Zone phase where he only wanted to read about the creepy phosphorescent creatures who live right at the bottom of the ocean
  • My sister used to collect Coca Cola memorabilia and merch and painted her entire room bright red like some terrifying murder room
  • My husband and I recently merged our childhood marble collections (but only because we still know exactly whose is whose) and woooooo the memories of scrabbling together all my pocket money to go up to the shop and pick out a couple of shiny glass balls each week came flooding back in full technicolour. 
Gif of a woman saying 'wow, someone's obsessed'

What’s the point of all this? Well, all the best stories have a nugget of human truth inside them. Which doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be TRUE but it helps if you’re writing about something you have intimate knowledge of. 

The old adage ‘write what you know’ is misleading because it suggests you can only write about your limited life experiences, but what it REALLY means is bringing your own personal perspective to whatever you write. 

For example: I’m not the only person in the world with a marble collection, but I’m the only person who can write about how what it means to me. I’m the only person to know what else was going on at that particular point in my life, and my view of the world at age 8, when I kind of still believed that I might wake up one night to find the catseye marbles floating in the middle of my room because they belonged to a magical fae cat who only came to life if you managed to match up two of their marble eyes. And oh look, there’s a story.

Gif of marbles rolling across a table

So here’s what you’re gonna do today: 

Take one of your past obsessions. 

Chances are you know a great deal about this subject/object/thing.

Or at the very least, you have some strong feelings about it. 

Set a timer for 20 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind when you revisit those memories. Here are some prompts to get you going: 

  • How old were you and what else was going on in your life/the world at that time? (Eg: my best friend had just moved away and I remember watching a news story showing a castle on fire)
  • What were the sensory details of engaging with your obsession? (Eg: the cool smoothness and weight of holding marbles in my hand, the clacky noise they made when they hit together)
  • What other connections can you make that bring up emotions and/or a sense of character? (Eg: my grandad made me something he called a ‘dee-daw’ which was just a plank of wood with little arches cut out of it to try to roll my marbles through and I kept it for years because it was so special to me)
  • Can you add something magical or strange or metaphorical to the situation? (Eg: summoning my floating midnight fae cat!)

And remember, you’re an expert on your own feelings and experiences. You can write from a place of truth or you can channel them into a fictional character and a made up situation, it’s up to you. But taking something you KNOW and using that innate knowledge to craft something that feels real and true is the most effective writing hack in the world. (P.S. some useful resources on that below!) 

Have a go, and let us know how you got on in the forum of advent loveliness. We love reading your work and seeing where the exercises take you. 

Happy reminiscing!

Useful Stuff & Things:

Finding it hard to channel your own childhood memories? Borrow someone else’s instead (with consent, of course!) and try this exercise: Harvesting Kids’ Ideas

Interested in exploring ye olde adage: Write What You Know? Well it just so happens we have a WHOLE course dedicated to just that. Check it out here >>

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