I have to admit, I do not understand why starting a new novel drives me to drop everything else in my life I possibly can. I have always considered "obsessive-compulsive" to be an interesting combination of moods.
Note, please, that I did not call them emotions. The obsession is some kind of mental faculty, a curiosity so strong that you actively think of ways to rearrange your life as efficiently as possible so you can focus on the goal, understanding. The compulsion is some kind of spiritual faculty, a force from deep within your soul that pushes you to move beyond exhaustion and reason to accomplish the deed. Neither are emotions.
No, the emotions come into play while immersed in the task. I write a particularly clever phrase, and I am thrilled with it, imagining how impressed people will be once they read it. I write a heart-wrenching scene, and I cry along with the characters. I write about revenge, and pour all my petty vindictive thoughts into selecting just the right, cutting word for the touch.
Is it no wonder so many writers have mental health problems? We are so heavily invested in understanding imaginary lives that it is difficult to learn to pour out the words, close the (computer) door, and walk away into our 'real' lives. I still haven't learned to do it. I will find myself seeing the visions, the interactions between the characters, experiencing their emotions as I try to understand their motivations, and completely forget what I was trying to do in real life. I don't take twenty-minute showers because I'm trying to relax; I simply forget how many times I've shampooed. I can't even trust myself to boil tea bags anymore, having cleaned burnt tea bags off the bottom of a completely-evaporated saucepan before.
So, why do I do it? At this point, I almost feel as if I am 'tapping' into parallel dimensions, 'connecting' with real people having real problems, and 'offering' them my support by trying to help them figure out how to get out of their situations, like a best friend who cares so much she will give all her energy to help them out. Scribing their lives, acknowledging that they have meaning and that their lessons are valuable to others, is the greatest gift I can give them. "Yes, you are important. Yes, your struggles will not go unnoticed. Yes, your life matters."
I write compulsively because, as if I were their guardian angel, I must help them think things through. I must guide them to a greater understanding of their world. I must be their advocate. I must love them, praise them, and value their spiritual growth.
If I could ask an omnipotent being any question, it would be, "Is imagination the only way to access those parallel worlds?"