Friday, 20 September 2019

More about Rudyard Kipling’s Daemon

There is a little more Daemon-related material of interest in Rudyard Kipling’s autobiographical work Something of Myself.

His anecdotes provide some recommendations and guidance that other writers might find useful.

Give the Daemon the tools it wants
When it comes to writing, the best approach is to use tools and materials that attract and encourage the Daemon and avoid anything that the inner companion says it dislikes.

Kipling’s Daemon had a strong preference for deep black ink:

For my ink I demanded the blackest, and had I been in my Father's house, as once I was, would have kept an ink-boy to grind me Indian-ink. All 'blue-blacks' were an abomination to my Daemon...”

It is strange what a big difference these little things make. It is definitely good practice to humour whatever it is that makes the ideas flow. It is merely a matter of doing what feels right; it is easy to sense when the Daemon is comfortable and when not.

Do your share of the work
One thing the writer can do that the Daemon cannot is to research and check some basic information. Not only does this improve the quality of the work and the authority of the writer, getting started may attract the attention of the Daemon and encourage it to make its own contribution.

In Rudyard Kipling’s own words:

In respect to verifying one's references, which is a matter in which one can help one's Daemon. Take nothing for granted if you can check it. Even though that seem waste-work, and has nothing to do with the essentials of things, it encourages the Daemon. There are always men who by trade or calling know the fact or the inference that you put forth. If you are wrong by a hair in this, they argue 'False in one thing, false in all.' Having sinned, I know. Likewise, never play down to your public--not because some of them do not deserve it, but because it is bad for your hand.

Kipling is right on all counts:

The writer should check his facts as this helps to avoid criticism and damage to his reputation.

Not only does giving his best efforts show respect for the writer’s reading public, it is good practice because it keeps his skills and standards up to the mark. 

Getting the results of the left-brain work down in writing may jump start the right-brain and encourage the Daemon to step forward and provide some inspiration for the creative aspect of the work.

Stop while the Daemon is ahead
Rudyard Kipling learned to listen to the inner voice that told him when enough was enough.

His children’s books were a good example: the Jungle Books and the Puck stories were extremely successful and more of the same would have been very well received, but he decided to stop after producing two volumes of each. His Daemon had made it very clear that this was the end of it:

After blocking out the main idea in my head, the pen took charge, and I watched it begin to write stories about Mowgli and animals, which later grew into the Jungle Books.

Once launched there seemed no particular reason to stop, but I had learned to distinguish between the peremptory motions of my Daemon, and the 'carry-over' or induced electricity, which comes of what you might call mere 'frictional' writing. 


My Daemon was with me in the Jungle Books, Kim, and both Puck books, and good care I took to walk delicately, lest he should withdraw. I know that he did not, because when those books were finished they said so themselves with, almost, the water-hammer click of a tap turned off. One of the clauses in our contract was that I should never follow up 'a success,' for by this sin fell Napoleon and a few others. Note here. When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey.”


The results of disobeying the Daemon
Kipling is right. We must recognise the signal to stop. Further writing, fiction at least, that is done without inspiration is forced, or, as he called it, ‘frictional’. It is a tedious task; it is sometimes even becomes a burden and an imposition.

I have seen many cases of writers whose later books in an imaginative fiction series lack the magic of the early ones.

Something is missing; it is the participation of the Daemon. It has opted out of the partnership.

The readers may have been clamouring for more; the writers and their publishers may want to oblige them and to earn more money from the cash cow, but the Daemon does not perform on demand!