We all have writing demons. They go by various names – imposters, internal critics, inner editors, blockages, procrastinations … they are nasty and stop you writing. Mostly you wish they’d go away and just leave you be. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t want to get rid of these demons entirely. You don’t want to slay then and rid yourself of them forever. Well, probably not. They can actually be useful, you see, at the right time and in the right places.
The imposter demon stops you being cocky and making over-claims. The internal critic offers you a way to evaluate your writing, the first step in thinking how to change it. The inner editor focuses you on textual features that need attention. Writing blockages can help you to rethink to see if your warrant, argument, evidence, angle aren’t suitable for the task. Procrastination can create some helpful re-thinking time and space.
Because the demons can be useful, in their place, it can be helpful to think about what they actually are and what they are ‘saying’ to you. It can be good to consider when and how your demon might be a benefit, rather than a barrier to your writing.
Health warning. Playful strategy ahead.
This is a small, somewhat silly exercise I sometimes do in workshops if participants are having a really hard time getting their writing demons under control. You do have to be in the right frame of mind to do it, and I understand that some people will find this activity pretty odd/naff/stupid. (However, the exercise does have an actual therapeutic basis – re-narrativisation.) It’s not a completely bad thing to do in a group where you can all have a laugh together about the demons you share – and the smart remarks you make to them. But if you’re not in the mood for a bit of play stop HERE, NOW.
First of all, imagine your demon. If there is more than one, just pick the one that appears most often.
Now give it some kind of shape – human, animal, fantastic, surreal, whatever fits the feelings it creates … You might like to draw it, or find a picture of something that fits and stick it on a paper or digital slide.
Now imagine your demon speaking to you. Write down what it says – if you are working with a picture use a speech bubble…
The next step is to put yourself into the picture. Imagine that you are speaking back to your demon. You may want to just vent for a moment. But then –
Answer back. What is unhelpful about the demon’s statement? Say it as rudely, sneakily, cleverly as you can.
And now –
Answer back again. This time… Reframe what the demon is saying … what is it about the demon’s comments that might be helpful? How? And when? Stay where you are inner editor until I ask you to come and help with… you get the idea. Tell the demon when you will let them spring into action.
And there you have it. Writing demon. Tamed. Put in its place. Back in its box.