THE CASE OF AN INCURABLE OBSESSION, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

I just finished reading South of Broad, by Pat Conroy and A Drop of the Hardstuff, by Lawrence Block. Both books were terrific. I learned more about human nature and experienced how the characters dealt with the trauma of their lives. Conroy and Block know how to make that happen. I love being so immersed in a novel that all I can think about is how the main character will survive and win.

Am I on the way to that elite class? Hundreds of people think that Chasing Backwards is also terrific. They tell me they were up all night reading and woke up exhausted. They ask when the sequel is coming out. Part of me is excited. Part of me can’t believe it’s happening.

My wife accuses me of being obsessed, always in front of the computer writing. Is that all you think about? She asks.

You probably know the story of the scorpion and the frog.

“Give me a lift over to the island,” the scorpion says to the frog.

“No. You’ll sting me and I’ll die,” the frog says.

“If I sting you, we’ll both die. That makes no sense,” the scorpion responds.

The frog reluctantly agrees, and the scorpion hops on his back. Halfway to the island, the scorpion stings the frog and they both sink into the water.

“Why did you do that?” the frog croaks, in his dying breath.

“It’s in my nature,” the scorpion says, and drowns.

So, maybe I’m a lot like the scorpion — driven and loving the whole process.

Maybe one day readers will say, I just read Smukler, Conroy and Block. They know how to do it. I never wanted the book to end.

Having an incurable obsession is working. If someone tries to give me psychotherapy or Prozac, I’ll savagely fight them. I don’t want this obsession to go away. I don’t want to be cured! Sometimes having an incurable obsession can get you into medical school or make you into a respected writer.

Sometimes an incurable obsession can simply be called PASSION.

Writers, readers, and therapists, what are your experiences with obsessions?

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11 thoughts on “THE CASE OF AN INCURABLE OBSESSION, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. I am absolutely obsessed with writing, too! But not fiction, more for just expressing myself, and interacting with other people. I’ve been on disability with fibromyalgia for ten years. Hi! to Gill, my fellow fibro! When I’m on the Internet, learning new things, and thinking new things, I feel like I am doing something constructive. If it helps me not focus on the pain, it’s a good thing. And I hope that maybe something I write will be meaningful to someone else, even if I never know. I find I have a lot to say, and really feel driven to say it. It helps me understand myself, and work out feelings and issues that are puzzling me, or frustrating me. When I get feedback, it can validate my feelings, and let me know whether or not I’m on the right track. I like the interesting conversations that result, conversations I never would be able to have in “real” life. I have an obsession with the human mind, and how it works. Lately, I have become much more involved with politics online. Many of the rights we take for granted, especially for women, are under threat. I want to do what I can to stop it, even if I can’t get out of bed! If I can encourage or empower others, maybe I can help in some small way. I never feel alone, because there’s always someone who wants to hear what I have to say, or who tells me something I didn’t know. It really is empowering.


  2. Hey, don’t dis the Prozac! lol. I can’t get my brain to shift into W (writing) unless I’m a wee touch manic. That good old mood leveler is giving me back my OCW (obsessive-compulsive writing, obviously). So glad to have it back!


  3. Please don’t tell me writing every day is an illness! Hell I have enough of them, writing is what takes me away from the pain and the depressing days. Writing is what keeps me going through the day when the kids are in school and my husband is in work… without writing I’d be a vegetable watching daytime television and eating too much.
    I’m not obsessed, honest… but if you try and take my pen and notebook away from me I may have to kill you.


  4. My obsession is locking my car door. I need to hear the beeping sound at least 4-5 times before I’m able to walk away. But, I don’t think that’s the kind of obsession you refer to.


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