1922 - 2011
When I graduated from college in 1971 with an English degree and no job, I wanted to be a writer, but I didn't know where to start or what to write about. In college, I had written poetry but no short stories or fiction. I wanted to write but I had not subject. I had no obsessions. During a four month trip through western United States and Canada in 1972, I came up with an idea for a novel. I decided to write a historical novel about John Kaufman, a Mennonite sleeping preacher in the early 20th century. Kaufman would go into a trance and preach a coherent sermon. People stuck needles in him to see if he would wake up. While in Oregon I did some research. When I returned in early November to Goshen I continued the research. When I reached my hometown of Roanoke, I tried to interview some people who knew Kaufman and I was told to cut my hair and find a job. I let the novel slide into my subconscious.
I have taken years to figure out what my obsessions are. In looking back over the more than 5,000 poems that I have written, a key subject stands out: my relationship with God. I write to understand God. Even forty years ago when I wanted to write a historical novel, my subject was God. I have been told by atheists and non-believers that I should not write about God. And conservative Christians are often offended by what I have to say about God. Yet write I must. I am obsessed.
What are you obsessed with? What drives you to paint and to write? What wakes you up and inspires you to pick up your paint brush or pen?
Here is a video showing several of Lucian Freud's portraits and includes interviews with some of the people who had their portrait painted.