I was talking to a friend the other day about one of the most important pieces of creative writing advice I’ve ever heard:
Follow your obsessions.
I’m definitely a person who gets obsessed with things. If you’ve ever binged Game of Thrones for hours at a time or stayed up until 3:00 AM reading Harry Potter or had dreams about the characters on Lost, you know what I’m talking about.
There’s a lot of talk about fan fiction and whether or not it has any validity. I think fan fiction is great because it gives people a chance to follow their obsessions. If you loved a book, movie, or TV show but hated the ending, you can write your own alternative ending. If you're obsessed with a character, you can put them in a different universe just to write more about them. (Want to see Jack Skellington in modern day New York? Want to make Mr. Darcy go to college in Alabama?Want to see what would happen if Dracula started going to your gym? Write some fan fiction!) Often, fan fiction authors go on to write other original stories (50 Shades of Grey anyone? The Mortal Instruments series? Both of these came from fan fiction authors.)
Find what it is you are obsessed with and allow yourself to daydream. Allow yourself to fantasize. Start writing stories just for yourself. Because you’ve always loved your history teacher and sometimes you imagine what he was like as a teenager. Because you are obsessed with Dark Side of the Moon and you want to write a story that makes you feel what you feel when you listen to it. Whatever it is, figure it out, and go with it.
Do not judge or psychoanalyze your obsessions. Who knows why we are into the things we are into? In the world of creativity, there are no limits. Let yourself like what you like and give yourself the chance to write about it.
Do not worry about what other people will think. Let yourself write and tell yourself it’s just for you. If something really great comes out of it, then awesome! You can show people if you want to. But following your obsessions is just about finding what makes you excited, what makes you tick, what makes you want to create.
When I wrote the play, Painted, in undergrad, I became so obsessed with the Muse characters, Vincent and Izabella, that I found myself wanting to spend more time with them. I toyed around with other projects that I thought might be more “accessible” for a while but it wasn’t until I returned to Vincent and Izabella that I was able to complete a novel. Because I was obsessed. I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t let those characters and that story die inside of me. Ten years later, Vincent and Izabella still live in We Own the Sky.
Find your obsessions and then just let yourself go. Let yourself dream. Let yourself fall down the rabbit hole. You might just find that it will lead you to the story you’ve always wanted to write.