Chapter 3: Obsession
How to Make Your Creative Dreams a Reality:
Strategies to Cultivate Your Talent
When I was in my forties, my wife Pat came to me one day and said, “Paul, outside of the family, all you do is work glass and talk about glass. You need a hobby.”
Pat was right, but glass was my hobby and my obsession. And I was comfortable with that, and I still am to this day.
The word “obsession” has a negative connotation. If you look it up, many dictionaries define it as a dominating thought that seizes the mind. The distant root of the word comes from a Latin phrase for obstructing something. While there are clearly cases where obsessive thought is an impediment to normal life, to the artist an obsession, when internalized and expressed through the work, articulates depth of feeling, emotion, and a fresh point of view – in short, everything that great art is celebrated for.
Being obsessed in itself won’t contribute to significant art. You have to nurture and exploit the obsession.
In 1963, I graduated from Salem Community College, trained to craft scientific glass instruments; this led to a successful career in industry. I reached the master’s level before redirecting my skills to the creative side.
As a self-employed artist-craftsperson, I’ve experienced a heightened sense of self-worth. By focusing my creative
energy to explore and interpret the beauty and fecundity of a flowering plant I’ve educated myself in a way that allows me to work towards my full potential.
This was not a passing thought: My particular emotional need has been, and still is, the motivating factor for my 50-year journey – a career that has been propelled by self-directed learning complemented by a spiritual desire to interpret in glass God’s delicate flowering plants.
It was not an easy journey, in part because I knew I had to study artistic excellence overall, moving beyond the boundaries of craft and visual art into the realm of literature and the philosophy of beauty.
I had difficulty reading because of a disorder called dyslexia, and it took me years of disciplined self-directed training, listening to books on tape in order to educate myself in the classics. At first, I could only concentrate for about fifteen minutes. But as I developed my powers of concentration to absorb and process the spoken word, I was able to increase my endurance and understanding.
This was how I nurtured my artistic maturity. Art-making is a head trip first, an exercise in hand-skills second. An artist beginning his or her journey might think, at first, that listening to the poetry of Walt Whitman would have little to do with my work. But in fact, I have been challenged by the depth of feeling Walt Whitman brought to his art and have studied him for 35 years. His tools were words, fresh and significant words that broke through literary boundaries and gave America an authentic voice that influenced future writers.
Excellence, whether it’s art, music or literature, celebrates beauty, and excellence is nurtured by passion, which is another way of saying obsession.
I think my work will represent society’s interest in native flowers in the mid-to-late 20th century and the early 21st.
The small-scale native flower was my passion.
I believe it will be my legacy.
Your job is to get your audience to care about your obsessions.
Your ability to use the principle of autosuggestion will depend, very largely, upon your capacity to concentrate upon a given desire until that desire becomes a burning obsession.