Grace Zabriskie on “obsessional mode”

Grace Zabriskie in Big Love 2006

Grace Zabriskie has commented about an article on Positive Obsessions, by creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD, and says:

“I have for many years now extricated myself, without too much guilt, from social events with close friends by knowing I will be understood when I say that I am going into – or already deep into – ‘obsessional mode.’

“It seems to me that while a person who has long known that he or she is a person who lives to make things that weren’t there before hardly needs to have it explained that ‘an obsession can be positive,’ still there are many younger artists who greatly need this confirmation of that aspect of the creative process.”

On obsession for actors

“Keeping one’s energy to shoot a scene late in the day after one has been called in at the crack of dawn… learning how not to dissipate one’s energy during that day, how to conserve one’s strength and not fall into the trap of boredom while one waits… this is another way of understanding and utilizing obsessional mode.”

“I don’t imagine I’m the only actor who gets obsessional in preparing for a role, preserving energy through a long day of not getting to work, maintaining what you believe is right for your character when dealing with wardrobe, hair, make-up, etc.

“As you get older, you need the ability to go into obsessional mode just to learn lines properly. Everything in life tends to teach you that not a lot really matters in the long run, and obsessional mode is an antidote to that.”

On the value of reading

“It is my firm belief that actors, with or without extensive formal educations, need to read good fiction constantly. Keeping a fine dictionary at hand is part of what will maximize reading, but actually summoning the energy to USE the dictionary, even if it’s a lot, requires a version of obsessional mode.”

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[See link to article “In Praise of Positive Obsessions” in post Positive Obsessions.]

Two books Zabriskie recommended to a young actor friend:

Possession : A Romance – by A.S. Byatt
[“Winner of the 1990 Booker Prize, the U.K.’s highest literary award, it is a gripping and compulsively readable novel.” review]

Unless : A Novel – by Carol Shields [nominated for the Booker Prize]

Grace Zabriskie says: “Reading really well drawn and interesting characters helps you see lots of things that are important for growth as a person and as an actor.

“An example would be a character who thinks a lot but maybe doesn’t say much, or doesn’t express to others anything like what you know, from reading, that he’s thinking.

“This can lead you to begin to understand the importance of formulating an inner life for a character, creating reasons for every word the character says.. an inner context for those words.”

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Quotes used with kind permission of Grace Zabriskie.

See her sculptures and furniture designs at

Like many artists, she has many creative talents – see article Multitalented Creative People – with quotes by and about Leonard Nimoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Xavier Dolan, Juliette Binoche, Viggo Mortensen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Natalie Portman and others.


Article publié pour la première fois le 25/11/2015