Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Chariot's Demons

I have always had the ability to attach my demons to my chariot. — Ingmar Bergman

At the end of the writer's reins are any number of demons, but the lead pair are often Necessity and Creativity.

As demons go, Necessity is practical, methodical and level-headed, likes to color-code and alphabetize things, and isn't happy unless it's rearranging or streamlining something. It views idleness and apathy as horrors, and anyone prone to them a nightmare.

Despite its grim rep, Necessity has occasionally accomplished minor miracles, like finding in under ten minutes a cash receipt for a malfunctioning laptop bought Christmas Eve three years ago with an in-store warranty. Two days before the warranty expired, no less. It has walked the floors at night because the taxes didn't balance out to the penny, at least, not until Necessity runs a tape on the ledger five more times. Necessity harnesses itself to the chariot bright and early every morning, because it's done sleeping, and now it's time to work.

No one likes Necessity, so it is by nature silent and self-sufficient.

Its running partner, Creativity, is a flighty, self-absorbed, unreliable demon ruled by its emotional response to pretty much everything in existence. It can't remember the alphabet and thinks color codes are only useful as passwords secret agents might use to get mission assignments in a story, i.e. "Blue Danube. Seduce the North Korean ambassador's wife during Paris embassy party. Post video on YouTube. Gotcha."

Lazy as it is, Creativity has occasionally pulled off minor miracles, too, like writing three hundred thousand words in ninety days to create a series out of a trilogy that it ended a year earlier. Or that time it credibly wrote a biker and an elephant into the plot for a story in which bikers and elephants would never appear in a million years, all because the editor thought they would make "fun" story elements to add.

Everyone loves Creativity, so it spends a lot of time basking in admiration.

Necessity also dotes on Creativity, when it's not nagging it to stop slouching, get a haircut and find a pair of shoes that actually match, for God's sake. Creativity has a certain exasperated fondness for Necessity, although it thinks a weekend in Marseilles, a five-pound ganache with raspberry-chocolate glaze and a good schtupping in a feather bed would change Necessity's life for the better.

Once properly harnessed, Necessity usually leads while Creativity trots along for the ride. Necessity knows exactly where it is going, how long it will take to get there and what is required for the journey. It packed everything last night in color-coded travel bags and also brought extra toothbrushes, just in case.

Creativity packed nothing, doesn't know what time it is and could care less where it's going. It wants to stop to smell every flower, inspect every traveller and feed at every trough. It only gets its ass in gear when it spots, smells or hears something to chase, and then Necessity must keep pace or get trampled.

Necessity secretly appreciates Creativity's little sprints and all the very cool places they take them, although it would really appreciate a map next time and maybe a schedule of stops spaced at regular intervals so it doesn't miss lunch or burn dinner.

Creativity won't admit it, but it knows that if it wasn't for Necessity, it would never stop daydreaming long enough to complete a journey. Now if Necessity would simply leave those extra toothbrushes at home, and stop bypassing all those cool-looking side roads, every trip would be amazing.

Generally Creativity gets all the credit for the success of the journey -- something that would never have happened without Necessity's determination and endurance -- while Necessity takes all the criticism for every bump, pot hole and pitfall along the way -- something that it knows would smother Creativity if it had to deal with it.

They squabble, bicker and try to resist each other, but after a time they learn to travel together. They know that if we hitch only one of them to the chariot, we're not going anywhere interesting, or we're not going anywhere at all. Or Ego and Fear will take the lead, in which case there's going to be a huge pile-up down the road.

What's harnessed to your chariot?


  1. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Unfortunately for me, Ego and Fear are harnessed to the Chariot, with Necessity cracking the whip, and Creativity bound in chains and dragging behind. :(

  2. That's a great post, Lynn.

    Right now, it's Procrastination and Lost-Plot. I'm hoping Discipline and Discernment will take over for them now that the holiday's over, but Lost-Plot got tangled in his harness...

  3. Excellent post.

    What's harnessed to my chariot?

    The desire to tell a story that might resonate with someone. Maybe take them to another place or state of mind, if only for a moment.
    The desire to make good use of the storytelling urge, since it insists on haunting me anyway.

    Oh--and I've also recently attached curb feelers.

  4. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Today, Creativity wants to go down a lot of side roads, or maybe that's procrastination in disguise. The last couple of days N and C have been doing a pretty good job of taking turns. I think N has pulled overto read the map today.
    By the way, I thought my comment was saved yesterday for moderation (It was in a little yellow box at the bottom) but it never showed up. I don't think there was anything wrong with the content, so I just wanted to let you know. It may be becauase I don't have an account and log in here as a guest.
    I usually have to enter the word verification two or three times to post.

  5. Since it's nearing the end of November, Creativity is in charge with Spontaneity. So far, 'call me Vity' has run over Proper Grammar, kicked Punctuation to the kerb and is hot on the tail of Word Count, who's run screaming to The End for help.

    The End, of course, has built a rather large road block called Edit.

    As you can imagine, it's going to cause quite the pile on the It-Seemed-Like-A-Good-Idea-At-The-Time highway. Participles are going to dangle, Pronouns hanging out at the end of Sentences, Passives and Actives fighting...

    Yep, it's going to be a Dark and Stormy Night.

  6. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Creativity has been in the lead for far too long - we never get anywhere.

    For the past year, I've been trying to encourage Necessity, bribing it with outlines and color-coded files. We're making progress, but sometimes Creativity goes a little wild and takes over.


  7. Infatuation -- who I think is Creativity's cousin -- and Isolation are my favorite pair, as they really get the work done, but Infatuation is just about as flighty as his cousin and tends to slip the harness right in the last 2/3 of the trip. And unfortunately, Isolation isn't equipped for fending off all the friendly lookie-loos along the way when Infatuation insists on blabbing to everyone he meets.

    Right now, though, Writer's Block and You Suck have taken the bit between their teeth and are barrelling hell-for-leather back the way we came. On the wrong side of the road.

    Needless to say, I'm revising a finished book instead of writing a new one at the moment. Oi.

    Great post, though. I love it here. *grin* So glad you're back, PBW.

  8. Wonderful blog post! Loved it. For me, all the writing demons were scared out of their stable by the newborn. The only thing going is the blogging turtle and that dude takes his sweet time.

  9. Well, it ain't Rudolph!

  10. Funny, you've just rounded up my split-in-half personality perfectly! Right now, necessity has muzzled creativity and feels all superior 'cause there are so many things that just have to get done! So there isn't much creativity going on, and if there is, it needs to sneak itself in behind necessity's back, like when I take photos or design web stuff. Words would be too dangerous, so no writing at the moment.

  11. My chariot busted a wheel this week in the final days of NaNoWriMo. So Determination turned around, threw me on its shoulder, and shouted, "We're hitting 50K if I have to carry you on my back!"

  12. I like this description! Necessity and creativity, yep. I should give them both carrots.

  13. Curiosity has been leading the chariot lately, dashing all over like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on a sugar high. "Let's write a screenplay! Let's write poetry! Let's sketch!"

  14. Wow, you been writing pro since 1998, almost ten years.

    speaking of Demons, have you read any Jack Vance (Demon Princes)?

  15. Creativity and Fear at the moment - I fear. :)

    Hmmm. Methinks I better go round up Necessity.

    Great Post. :)

  16. Marjorie Liu2:53 PM

    Hell if I know what harnesses my chariot, but this is something I needed to read, so thank you. :-)

  17. I have three muses: Tommy the Terse, Larry the Loquacious, and the most feared--Bruno the Bill Collector.

  18. Apathy and Loathing are leading my chariot down a meandering path into a ditch where Creativity can die a proper death by drowning.

    Eight months and counting ...