Putting Your Demons to Work in Your Writing

author demons evil-530640_1280Demons. We all got ‘em … what do we do with ‘em. History is full of accounts of famous authors and their addictions. By no means is this post a psychological treatise on alcoholism and addiction, nor is it a preachy “get you act together” post. Everyone one of us deals with something. What we do with it makes all the difference in the world.

If you look back in history, some of it still living, you can find a Hall of Fame of great writers that struggled with some form of addiction or abuse. William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edgar Allen Poe all have well-documented lives relating to alcohol and its association to their writing … and their death. Many of the early authors may not have linked their demons and health.

Others were fully aware of what they were doing to themselves. Hunter S. Thompson once said, “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Not to be outdone, Truman Capote quipped, “I’m an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict. I’m a homosexual. I’m a genius.”

One of the most famous of all is Ernest Hemingway. This American literary icon literally drank himself to death before committing suicide in 1961.

This is not an issue from the past either. Stephen King wrote about his issues in his memoir, On Writing. If you were like me, I was shocked to hear of his battles with cocaine and alcohol.

Herein lies the question: do the demons make you a better writer? That’s a personal question. With the authors of the past, we’ll never know. According to accounts, Faulkner never drank while writing. He used alcohol to escape when not writing. However, many died at an early age due to the abuse caused by their addictions.

Not all demons come from addiction — abuse, sex, health, and relationships — all foster demons. Many times, our demons are a source of inspiration, healing, and of course, writing material. Look at how pop star Taylor Swift has used her relationships in her craft. Probably half of her songs are stories about love gone wrong … and she’s made millions off it.

As writers, we spend hours alone, typing away on the keyboard, with the voices in our heads leading the way. If you’ve tucked away demons in there with the voices, don’t let them go to waste. Put them to work, helping you write the best stuff you can. Bring that emotion and fear out into the public. As a writer, you are one of the few people in the world who can tell that story. That’s when people can feel, touch, taste, and smell what is out there … when people say, “That dude has some serious issues.”

I say, don’t let your demons live rent-free in your head. If you’ve got them, use them. Have you put your demons to work for you?

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

15 thoughts on “Putting Your Demons to Work in Your Writing”

  1. Demons are fine if they’re properly managed. That way they work for you and not against you. And management takes lotsa guts, IMHO. You have to be a very good tactician in this war.

    1. Thanks, Remi. Management is the key. Or at least realizing that they’re there helps a little too.

  2. Jim I love your last line. Yes we all have demons to some degree and using them in our stories can be therapeutic, as well as fun.

  3. Thoughtful post, Jim. Not that any of us exactly want the demons we have, but it’s true they give us insight into situations that we can use in our writing, and writing about them often helps us confront and deal with them. It’s a two-way street like that: putting the story out there to maybe help others and writing ourselves to a healthier outlook. That’s what I call a win-win.

    1. Thanks, Melissa. Sounding like a true veteran of demons. Yes, win-win is the way to go.

  4. Writers and other artists often experience such cathartic fluctuations for one primary reason: our personas call for it. It’s part of our psychological makeup. How else can we communicate to the world the full range of human emotions, if we don’t endure them firsthand ourselves?

      1. Thanks, Jim. I finally realized that after my own battles with alcohol and depression. I always wondered why artists seemed prone to such ills. But everyone is like the moon: they have a bright side and a dark side. We love artists when they produce incredible works, but cock our heads in confusion when they get arrested for drunk driving or worse, take their own lives. I’m not making excuses for illicit behavior. People can’t reasonably blame those “personal demons” for doing stupid stuff, especially if it puts others in danger. We artistic types just have to accept and understand that our emotions aren’t static and that we react more acutely to the world around us. In that way, we can keep producing good works.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: