Why you should not spurn your daemon!

The award-winning author Susan Price and I are exchanging emails at the moment for a future entry on the ‘A conversation with’ page on her blog. By a delightful synchronicity, her latest response was a perfect illustration of the blog post I had just written last week, and she has agreed to let me publish it here.

Susan Price

There was a time in my life, when I was denying that ‘other’in my head, when I think my subconscious very deliberately worked against me.

I would say something quite innocent to someone – ‘Hello, how are you?’ for instance – and hear myself saying it in a tone, or with an inflexion that completely changed the meaning and made it insulting or aggressive. I had absolutely no conscious intention of insulting anyone, and would be as astonished as the person I’d just offended – but, of course, what could I say? – ‘I didn’t mean it like that! – That came out wrong!’

Sometimes people were polite, but I’d just bitten their heads off for no good reason. It was impossible to explain that the voice they’d just heard wasn’t mine. They would have thought I was mad. I occasionally thought I was mad.

I was at logger-heads with what I now call ‘my daemon’ because I was refusing to acknowledge that it existed, and so it fought me all the way. I would be writing something and would decide to make some change to the plot. What I now call the daemon would object, but I would refuse to listen because I didn’t recognise its voice. I put it down to a mere passing thought, and brushed it off because at that time I was certain that there was only one voice in my head: the ‘I’ voice, which I would now call ‘the editor’.

The daemon took its revenge by withdrawing. The piece of writing I was working on would turn to stone, or dry up, or fall over dead – whatever image you want to use. I had to learn that with writing – or, I think, any art – the daemon does the real work! The Editor may make some great editing decisions, once the real work is finished, but shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the daemon.

A vengeful, spurned daemon is a dangerous thing, I think. Mine not only stymied my every effort at writing, it played those tricks to embarrass me. It was ingenious at finding ways to make such remarks as,“Yes, please,” and “Yes, I’ve heard of that,” nasty and cutting.

I had to learn that talk of ‘muses’ and ‘daemons’ was not the arty-farty nonsense I thought it, but simply a way of talking about something that we don’t quite understand, and don’t have an everyday vocabulary for. I began to solve problems with writing by summarising the problem and saying to the daemon,‘Solve this for me.’ And it did! The more I trusted it, the faster and more inventively it solved the problems.

I started to give way to it. If it insisted that a particular character should – or shouldn’t – die, I no longer argued, but humbly worked with it to make it so. I discovered that the more I worked with and trusted the daemon, the friendlier it became. It stopped playing those tricks on me!

As a result, I paid it more attention and ‘heard’ it more clearly. I started to see how a piece of writing that I’d ‘made up as I went along’ had sub-texts planted in it, and other subtleties that ‘I’ hadn’t written – so who had? And then I read Kipling’s description of his ‘daemon’ and knew what he was talking about right away.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this taster, watch out for our full conversation on Susan’s blog in the coming weeks. You may also like to check out her ‘Muse Monday’ guest post on Katherine Roberts’ lovely blog, Reclusive Muse, where she descibes her daemon and quotes the passage from Rudyard Kipling she refers to here.

9 thoughts on “Why you should not spurn your daemon!”

  1. A brilliant post Susan and I’m so glad that your daemon has been so helpful. I love how you have embraced it and got it working for you. How I wish I had known how to do this in my own life. I spent years battling until I realised that I didn’t have to destroy it, rather accept it as a part of me. I found once I did that, it lost it’s control over me and now can be listened to ignored as I choose. And like your daemon, mine can also be quite creative, so it’s not all bad at all!

  2. Your daemon reminds me of the Trickster Susan and it’s fascinating the different forms our shadows take. But it’s daunting making friends with the gate keeper! However your piece is a perfect illustration of how worthwhile that can be.

  3. Thanks Hesterlumi. I think, in general, we fear ‘the Shadow’, ‘Trickster’ or ‘daemon’ too much – just as we fear, or are taught to fear, anger and sexuality. Sadness, too. Yet none of these things are so fearsome – and they can all be very creative!
    A friend of mine once had a repeated nightmare in which she was chased by a tiger. One night, in the middle of a cold-sweat chase, she had a lucid moment. (I didn’t believe in lucid dreams at the time, and she told me this to convince me.) She suddenly thought, ‘Where would I find a jungle with a tiger in it? This is a dream!’
    Armed with that, she stopped, turned round and faced the oncoming tiger. Whereupon, it stopped, sat down, and licked its paws and ears like a pussy-cat!
    I know this seems too pat, but I didn’t make this up, honestly! I’ve only just remembered it. Reading these comments reminded me.
    But I’ve still never had a lucid dream! I do believe in them now, though, because so many people have told me of theirs.

  4. Such a wonderful post! I came to writing from academia, which may be part of why it took me such a long time to trust intuition as much as logic (and often more). But the daemon is real, and smart — and, yes, not one to spurn!

    1. That’s interesting Amy – years of academic study crushed my ability or desire to be creative – I came back to writing through learning to dream.

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