The Writing Obsession

David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed
Published in
3 min readMay 21, 2024

If you want to write with purpose, you must be seized by your work

Photo by Alex Azabache

In so many of the workshops I have administered over the years, there is always at least one student who asks. “How do you find the time to write?”

And each time this is asked, I am dumbfounded,

“I don’t know how to answer that,” I say. “You have to put aside a space for writing and just get to work. It’s really that simple.”

But I’ve been thinking. There is one more important element to this.

After a recent discussion with a student I’ve been mentoring, one who hopes to publish a book-length memoir, I’ve come to realize that there is another level of commitment that should help answer this question.

You must be “seized” by your story.

That’s the word my student used. “Seized.” She was speaking of how obsessed and driven she was to tell her story. And the words obsessed and driven are good, but what really described her commitment was the word seized. You must be seized by your narrative. You must be grabbed by the throat. Your story must be your sole lover, your full motivator, your Holy Grail.

This element of the writing life cannot be taught. I can’t teach a student to be committed, to be obsessed, to be seized by the work. But what you can do is train yourself to be ready for seizure, if you will.

How can you as a writer set yourself up to become driven by your writing project?

1. Commit to a daily word count. Keep it realistic to your life situation. But make a commitment and keep a log. Write it down so that it becomes a process. Not every 500-word day is going to produce 500 great words. But the word count commitment will help you find an honest routine.

2. Choose and commit to a writing time and place. Put your writing time on your daily calendar. Mark it off and do not allow anything but an emergency to interfere. Choose a number and write to that number each day that your write, or at write in the same place. Find a routine for your work. Routine builds commitment. If you have to get up an hour earlier each day, then make that pledge to yourself.

3. Shift your focus. Maybe what you are writing is not what truly what gets your juices flowing. So, change the subject. Fiction is not doing it for you? Write personal essays. Memoir is not doing it? Write poetry. Discovering what it is that does spark passion is key. A writer must be in love with the project or commitment will never come.

4. Surround yourself with other passionate writers. Join a writing club, a writing group, an organization where the embers of your passion can be stoked. Being around those who are “seized” will help you find your sweet spot. Passion ignites passion.

There are many stories about artists and writers who have sacrificed parts of their lives for the passions of their art: Jack Kerouac, Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh. Many have suffered due to it. The list is long. I’m not suggesting one must go to the extreme, but there is no getting around commitment and passion. Still. I believe one can train themselves to reach that level. Of course, one also has to be committed to the training. You have to want to find that passion; you must want to be seized by your work.

Finding your way as a writer will always be a winding journey. It’s the same with one’s life. Think about the times in your life when you were the most successful (whatever that means to you), the happiest, when you were the most fulfilled. I guarantee every one of those times involved a level of passion and commitment.

Something “seized” you and it wouldn’t let go

David W. Berner is the author of several award-winning novels and memoir. He is a writing teacher and coach for Gotham Writers and regularly conducts writing workshops.



David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed

Award-winning writer of memoir and fiction. Creator of Medium publication: THE WRITER SHED and author of THE ABUNDANCE on Substack..