The Daemon in the Corner

When I think about writing, I always tend to think that I should strive for perfection—that every sentence must be perfect! Really, I know this is an unrealistic expectation and, truly, in this realm as we know it, there is no such thing as perfection. But I continue to write anyway, hoping for a glimmer of something magical, if not divine.

Elizabeth Gilbert gave an amazing TED talk about the subject of creative genius. She describes the notion of the Greek “daemon,” or the Roman “genius,” as a disembodied spirit that provides inspiration. Only during the Renaissance did people begin to describe individuals as “geniuses,” Gilbert says. The notion that the daemon or genius is separate from the creative person is liberating, especially for Gilbert whose success is almost immeasurable. But it’s also liberating for creatives who toil in anonymity. If the sentences I write are not perfect, it’s not entirely my fault! The daemon didn’t show up, I can say.

But what if I do not show up?

I have been living through a period of creative doubt. It has lasted almost a decade, I would say. For nearly ten years, I have doubted my own creativity and abilities as a writer. But for much of that time, my creative voice has merely been silent. It has not produced anything great nor has it produced anything horrid. It simply has not produced. That will change this year.

Of course, I will strive to produce the best work I possibly can, and I realize that after nearly ten years of silence, my creative voice might be a bit rusty. But with proper use and exercise, I might get to a place where it’s at least not too bad. What I must remember is that showing up is half the battle. If this is the work I was born to do–and I believe it is–I must do it. I must also remind myself that it is, indeed, work, that inspiration is fleeting, that the daemon itself is fickle. Life is too short to put writing off for another day—because for all I know, I might not get another day. Take nothing for granted, I should tell myself.

The work I used to do was poetry. Over the last year, I had many false starts in prose. I often tell myself that prose, specifically fiction, is likely to be more profitable. This might very well be the case—however if I don’t regularly write then I cannot produce anything period, never mind it being profitable. Maybe I will give poetry writing another shot. I used to believe that poetry in particular required the presence of the Muse. I don’t know why I believed that. Everywhere I looked (when I was younger) I found inspiration. It’s a matter of seeing—what do you see when you look? For nearly a decade, I have only been looking not seeing. In other words, I have not been paying attention. The nine-to-five workday makes everything feel mundane and not special. But even in the workplace one can find inspiration, I suppose. When I think of the zany things my coworkers do and say, I find that I can be amused and even inspired. I do not wish to write about work, though. At least not now.

But what to write about, especially if I am to write poetry?

I will think of something. Until I have some poetry to share, I will just continue to maintain this blog and talk about writing, creativity, and inspiration. That should be enough to at least show the daemon in the corner that I’m serious.

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