The Hidden River of Your Writing
Nonduality, creativity, and the demon muse
Dear Living Dark reader,
With autumn now well underway, I find myself taking stock of my writing this year. And I find that, in a development that I never would have predicted before it actually unfolded, my interaction with social media has been a source of significant authorial energy and productivity. I have written a lot in 2023, and much of it has been specifically produced for sharing through a medium that I, like many people, have tended to criticize and use with a dash of irony.
Beginning last spring, I adopted a new approach to social media in which I deliberately set out to ride the Thoreauvian railroad instead of letting it ride me. I sought out information, advice, and guidance on how to write for best effect in a short-form social media environment, with “best” judged by the metric of reader response and connection, that is, overall success or failure in communicating messages in such a way that people would actually see them and read them. This resulted not only in a noticeable increase in positive interactions with a growing crowd of readers over at Twitter/X (and also at Substack Notes, where I parallel posted many of these things), but in a new charge of energy infusing itself into my ongoing exploration of the intersection between the daemon muse model of writing and creativity—the understanding of writing as a collaboration with an “inner other,” an inspiring genius spirit—and the theme of nondual self-realization.
This energizing effect was quite unexpected. Over a span of five months, I wrote thousands of words to share through a medium that favors pithy, short-form statements stripped of rhetorical subtlety and stylistic flourishes. And somehow this shift to a new register that felt so different from my usual mode of writing served to unlock a well of motivation. I found myself returning to my computer keyboard day after day as I sought to state the truth as it appeared to me in that moment. The words began to accumulate. Momentum began to build. As the weeks and months passed, I was genuinely surprised at the volume and variety of what wanted to express itself.
And now, with the autumn season well advanced, that energy curve appears to have reached its peak and begun its descent. This was predictable. For years my creative impulse has tracked the seasonal cycle. The fall and winter months usually represent a time of hibernation and incubation for my creative activity. (Side note: Yes, I know it’s strange that I launched this newsletter last year in September, at the very onset of fall. That was an anomaly.) This year as the seasonal shift takes place, I’m contemplating the spring/summer surge and seeing what it adds up to.
What I find is right in line with something William Stafford said an essential essay on writing that I have returned to many times over the years: “I know that back of my activity there will be the coherence of my self, and that indulgence of my impulses will bring recurrent patterns and meanings again.” The scattered, separate statements and reflections that I have shared at X and Substack Notes can be grouped into a discernible order that displays a progression of thought and theme. In effect, it all adds up to a kind of quasi-essay, appearing in pieces, written out of order over an extended span of time.
Below is an initial attempt at putting some of this together. I have combined, reordered, reworded, expanded, and remixed the constituent components as needed to evince the line of thought that first presented itself incrementally in random-ish order. The thing isn’t finished; there’s still more material to draw together. But it represents a running start. Some version of this may end up appearing in the book on the writer’s daemon that I’m currently developing. Or it may just stand as its own separate expression.
Navigating the dreamscape
This is the ultimate secret of creativity: Your whole life is a story that you are telling. This thing you call “my life” is a dream narrative. You are both its author and its main character.
Nietzsche famously said, “We are all greater artists than we realize.” Your challenge and calling, as both a writer and a person, is to wake up and own this.
We humans are inherently creative expressions of the intelligence that gives rise to the entire cosmos. So consciously expressing this creative force in the form of writing, ideas, and projects that flow through you is simply an extension of your own basic essence. Creativity is a hidden river running through your life. It created you, the dream character living out this narrative of a self in a world. It also uniquely gifts you for creating things within the dream: books, ideas, more. Creativity is your origin, purpose, and destiny.
Carl Sagan famously noted that “we are star stuff.”
Alan Watts frequently reiterated that the energy that moves the galaxies and causes the trees and grass to grow is what moves you, too. This includes not just our bodies but our minds, our subjective lives.
In your very being, you are literally nothing but a creative expression. As the Zen koan says, “Who is the master who makes the grass green?” Answer: You are.
Here’s a useful metaphor: Each new writing project is like a maze that shapes itself as you go. You explore, learning its logic, seeking the exit. Not incidentally, this is also how your life as a whole works. What you write is a microcosm of your soul. The labyrinth of your self is the labyrinth of your work. In writing, you’re both creating the maze and seeking its exit.
Creativity is a hidden river running through your life. It created you, the dream character living out this narrative of a self in a world. It also uniquely gifts you for creating things within the dream.
The inner synergy: you and your demon muse
Most people are familiar with the ancient Greek idea of the muse, the spirit or spirits that are the source of creative inspiration. The Greek idea of the daimon, the divinely assigned and accompanying spirit that represents each person’s unique character and calling, also resonates with this. These two combine to produce a practical working model for how writers can understand and approach their creativity.
Your daimon or daemon provides the fire, the enthusiasm. Your muse provides the images and ideas. Together, they make up the darkly beating heart of your creative calling: your demon muse.
You aren’t in this alone. You have an inner partner, an inner genius. It is your creative and existential GPS, your whole life guide.
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