The Care and Feeding of Obsessions

I don’t have a lot of hobbies any more. I think as you get older and life gets busier, it becomes difficult to make time for the things you aren’t required to do.  Maybe that’s a bad thing. Most likely it is. But it’s a fact of life, and from what I understand, I’m not in this boat alone.

That being said, not always having time for your hobbies doesn’t mean you let your curiosity go to waste. If there’s a subject that piques your interest even a little, you need to get yourself online or to the library or buried in a reference book, whatever it takes to scratch that intellectual itch.

It’s easy as a writer to categorize these fishing expeditions as going in search of story ideas, but I think that’s selling the process short. What you’re really doing is satisfying a need to know. You’re curious, so you’ve gone exploring. Even if it’s just along some nameless digital highway, you’re covering ground that’s new to you, and that’s never a bad thing.

In your search for knowledge, you may or may not find the answers you’re looking for, but in my experience, you always come away with more questions. And more areas that need investigation.

I make it a point to always feed whatever my current obsession may be. At the moment, I’m harboring an almost unhealthy interest in number stations. I love listening to recordings of those creepy broadcasts that seem to come out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly. When I’m alone in the dark after everyone’s gone to bed for the night, I like to fire up a few of those recordings and let my mind play, wandering at the origins of the broadcasts and their creators.

Will this fixation eventually lead to a story idea?

Maybe . . . maybe not.

But I know I love being thrilled, freaked out, and mesmerized all at the same time. It reminds me of being a kid in the woods at night, when absolutely anything could be sharing the dark with you. You believed it then, and you believe it now. Only these days you try and play it off, like it really was the sound of the house settling that woke you up at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. And yes, you are sure. That’s why there’s no reason to leave your bed and investigate any further.

You just need to make sure both your hands and feet are tucked safely under the blanket. Keep the corners tight, no loose edges off the bed.  And you might as well pull the comforter over your head for good measure. To muffle the sound, of course . . . of the house, not the footsteps in the hall.

I think there’s a definite upside to nurturing that paranoid little freakazoid who lives in my head. Sure he’s going to make me act like a fool when I’m alone in the dark. And yes, he will encourage me to call my wife at two in the morning because I went to a midnight horror movie with my brother and now I’m too afraid to get out of the car and walk upstairs by myself. (In my defense, she did turn off all the lights when she went to bed, so she really has no one to blame but herself.)

But despite the crazy things he puts me through, that little guy in my head opens me up to a world of possibilities. He’s the curious one who makes me consider a universe where almost anything can (and probably does) happen. Whenever he has a need to know, I have a need to know. I have no problem feeding his obsessions because the world is equal parts fantastic, mysterious, dangerous, and deadly, and who knows what might come in handy when everything finally goes to hell.

It’s going to happen sooner or later. The little guy inside says so. Might as well be prepared.  And if I get a story idea out of the whole thing, well . . . that’s just gravy.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

1 Comment

  • Kevin Wohler says:

    Yeah, the need to scratch that itch to know something is what keeps me on the Internet nearly every waking moment. And number stations?! I am right there with you, man. We need to talk about them sometime.

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