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One Way to Resurrect Your Writer's Daemon
Practical advice for when your creativity seems comatose—or even dead
Welcome to The Living Dark. I’m Matt Cardin, and this is my blog/newsletter on creativity for writers, situated at the intersection of religion, horror, nonduality, apocalypse, dystopia, consciousness, and the numinous unknown.
Dear Living Dark readers,
Recently someone approached me with a poignant question: “How do I resurrect my daemon?” He said he has been doing technical writing for many years, and has even written four technical books, along with many articles. And he feels this has killed his creativity. His technical books and articles have all followed a standard formula. Before his career in technical writing, he wrote creatively. But now, after years of strapping his writing energies down to this standardized, formulaic approach, he feels himself separated from his creative core. He even wonders if his writer’s daemon has died. How can he bring it back to life? Should he take some kind of writer’s course? Are there any books he should read?
I felt the sadness and urgency of his question intensely, since I, too, have gone through extended periods of felt separation from my own deep creative center. Below is the reply that I wrote to this individual. Maybe it will say something that’s helpful to you, too.
What you describe sounds like a truly troubling sense of your situation—the feeling that you’ve stifled your daemon or stunned it into a coma by doing so much mundane, cut-and-dried writing that you’ve now lost the creative spark, the inner connection.
For a simple remedy that you can implement right away, I suggest experimenting gently with some freewriting in the morning to establish a new line of connection with your creative self.
Set yourself some kind of basic guidelines, such as:
Write immediately after you wake up, before anything else.
Write by hand in a notebook.
Write literally anything that comes to mind, even if it’s “I don’t know what to write,” repeated over and over. If you do this long enough, other things will surface—last night’s dream, a memory, an idea, your plans for the day, a more detailed description of your feeling that you’ve lost your daemon, whatever.
Fill two pages, or set a minimum time if that feels better, e.g., 15 minutes.
Follow this practice for a week, lightly but firmly adhering to these “rules” or some others that you’ve set for yourself. Each morning as you sit down to write, and maybe also the night before as you’re going to bed, deliberately set your intention as “don’t care.” Don’t care what you write. Don’t care if it looks, feels, or seems “good” or “bad.” What do such categories even mean for an exercise like this? You’re simply doing a brain dump, inviting your mind, and deeper than that, your subconscious, and deeper than that, your unconscious, to express itself in words, no matter what those words maybe.
The bar for success is: Fulfill whatever rules you’ve set. Nothing more. Fill those two pages. Write for those 15 minutes, in the manner you’ve prescribed for yourself. If you do that, then no matter what ends up on the pages, you have been successful.
When you’re done each morning, forget about what you wrote. Forget about the whole exercise. Put the notebook away. Don’t think about it again until tomorrow morning. Unless, that is, thoughts or feelings about it want to come back on their own during the day, in which case simply notice them and let them be there, doing whatever they want to do. Be unconcerned about them.
You’re noticing the flickering presence and personality of your daemon. And you’re calibrating your conscious sense of thought, emotion, and identity to this presence that lives within and behind it.
Follow this practice for a week or two, then see how you feel. If you feel motivated, keep doing it for a month.
After awhile, get your notebook out and scan back over the pages with an objective eye, as if you’re reading notes written by someone else, the tracks of another person’s random mind. What do you see? Is there anything in there that surprises you? Or that elicits other emotions? How would you describe the writer’s personality, preoccupations, viewpoint, worldview? Does anything in the notebook spark a train of thought or emotion? Consider using any thoughts and emotions that arise as fodder for additional freewriting.
Who or what is looking back at you from those pages? Who wrote those words? Where did all those thoughts come from? Are some from your surface mind, the person you currently recognize and feel yourself to be, the one who feels disconnected from his daemon? Do other parts look, seem, and feel as if they came from someone or something else?
Explore these latter, deeper things, and consider their relationship to the former, shallower things from your ego mind. In doing so, you’re noticing the flickering presence and personality of your daemon. And you’re calibrating your conscious sense of thought, emotion, and identity to this presence that lives within and behind it. Eventually, this self-examination and the writing that can flow from it may take on a momentum of its own.
In answer to your other question, about whether I can suggest any books that might be helpful to you, the answer is yes. The following books have been deeply helpful in my own writer’s journey:
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
On Writer’s Block by Victoria Nelson
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Pick just one of these. Read it as slowly or exuberantly as you wish, as much or more for enjoyment as for instruction. Pick whichever one appeals to you most according to its title, cover, and/or publisher’s description. Give it a chance. Read a chapter or two. If it truly fascinates, keep going. Or if it leaves you cold, pick another and try again.
Each of these books deals directly with the task, challenge, opportunity, and joy of establishing a connection with your deep creative mind, your writer’s daemon, and learning how to write from that in a state of flow. Each offers guidelines for taking practical, intelligent action to bring this about. Each is filled with wisdom arising from the author’s unique angle of vision. I suspect one or more of them will speak in a way that appeals to you and gives you genuinely helpful guidance and advice.
Finally, if it appeals, have a look at my own contribution to the genre, A Course in Demonic Creativity, which, as its subtitle states, is a writer’s guide to the inner genius. I felt led 12 years ago by my own daemon muse to publish it as a freely available gift to anyone who wants it.
I wish you, truly, much success.
Praise for Journals, Volume 1:
“Lovers of weird fiction will relish Cardin's insights, story ideas, unsettling dreams, and reports on his reading, game-playing, and his fascinating spiritual and philosophical development. . . . The result is epic and intimate, a portrait of a mind and a milieu, with deep dives into the creative mind, the nature of the weird, and how to find one's way in a world that's sick.” — BookLife by Publishers Weekly
“There are those select few writers whose fiction, personal philosophies, and ideas generating them are equally rewarding as seen in such masters of the form as H. P. Lovecraft or Thomas Ligotti. Matt Cardin is proving to be among [these]. . . . For writers truly embracing the tough questions and doubt of the inner world, Matt Cardin lights a path in all that dark.” —Dead Reckonings
Praise for Journals, Volume 2:
“This heady second volume of the journals of Cardin, the writer of and expert on weird/cosmic horror fiction, charts two decades of thinking, searching, reading and feeling of matters artistic, theological, and philosophical. . . . A weird fiction authority’s searching, incisive journals of this millennium.” — BookLife by Publishers Weekly
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