I know, I know. Last time I promised Space Unicorns, and here you are, end of a long day perhaps, or settling in for the start of another one, or perhaps sat on the toilet for a bit of reading, looking for the Space Unicorns.
But I just couldn’t. I wanted to. I thought about it. I muddled and marinated for a couple of days, but Space just wouldn’t give me Unicorns. Today presented me with the first day yet, in almost two full months (is it that long now? Jesus) when I wasn’t going to make my writing goal.
Wrote about 400 words. Not feeling the flow. Squeezed out 100 more like an old man at a urinal. Painful. Forced. Scratched and clawed for 100 more, a dessicated husk of a man dragging himself on his stomach across scorching sands toward a fanciful oasis shimmering in the impossible distance. Some days, 900 words isn’t nearly enough for me to write what wants to be written. Today, it was Everest. So I gave up.
I was kind to myself. I reminded myself that I’ve been writing extra above and beyond my goal consistently on an almost daily basis, and that I’ve therefore banked enough words to have a day off and still be plenty ahead of schedule. I let myself remember that it’s been another rough week of testing at school and I’m thoroughly mentally fried to excuse an off day. I told myself it wouldn’t be that big a deal. I fooled myself into feeling almost pleased at letting myself off the hook.
But the Id-Writer was not satisfied.
I’ve mentioned the Id-Writer lots of times but never really fleshed him out. And since he saved my authorial bacon today vis-a-vis not allowing me to wimp out and leave my deadline unmet, it seems like a fine time to pay him tribute.
Every writer, I think, has multiple selves. There’s the self that calls itself a writer and introduces itself to people and is able to talk eloquently about writing. There’s a self that’s a plotter which works hard at making sure stories come together, go somewhere, mean something. There’s a wordsmith, who retains a repository of vocabulary that would astound and amaze even the most loquacious of perambulators. Tends to drive people away at parties. There’s the Ego-Writer that is concerned with things that will (theoretically) make the writer more successful as a writer: tone that bit down, clean up that description, maybe less swearing. Major party pooper, that guy. Which begs the question: whose party is being pooped?
That would be the Id-Writer.
Within every writer lurks a beast, a monster really, a restless demon hungry for the arterial heartblood of a good story. The Id-Writer slumbers in the heart of the writer until the right story comes along, and then, like an airplane instrument panel flickering to life, it uncoils itself and begins to stalk. It prowls the recesses of the writer’s mind, giving off the heady, reckless scent of the hunter. This scent penetrates the tissues of the writer’s brain, and the ideas begin to spring forth, like the shoots of bean sprouts after a spring rain: wild, twisted, and without number. The Id-Writer does not nourish these ideas. He’s not programmed to nourish. He grabs one, wolfs it down and vomits forth another story idea in a frenzy of teeth and paper and ink-blood.
The Id-Writer cares not for the intricacies of story, the poetry of metaphor, the delicate dance of punctuation and syntax. The Id-Writer cares only for words. Big, fat, juicy words, swollen with the weight of definitions the author hasn’t properly looked up yet. Tiny, quick little words that zip here and there, darting in and out of the rat’s nest that the Id-Writer builds piece by piece in a whirlwind of creative abandon. Rhythmic, rhyming words that come together and break apart in a riot of reason and rumination that seems to be, has to be, drug fueled.
And it is fueled by drugs: the endorphins that the author’s brain releases as the Id-Writer births another monstrous masterpiece (monsterpiece?). Amidst the gore and the tears and the inkstains, the newly born story will founder or flourish: a hapless sparrow fallen — no, flung — from its nest to survive in the wild terrain of edits and passes by the Ego-Writer or to suffocate under the weight of its malformed, mismatched appendages. The Id-Writer does not nourish, it does not tend, it does not nurture. It creates, and it lies dormant, and then it hunts and creates again.
The Id-Writer is as unpredictable, as wonderful, as terrible as the sea. It can charge forth with the fury of a stampeding herd of wildebeest. It can ascend the heavens with the grace and splendor of a Space Unicorn (YESSSSSS). It can scour the dark depths of the earth with the blind determination of a host of moles (seriously, what’s a family of moles called? I can’t be bothered, THE ID-WRITER HAS THE WHEEL). All this in pursuit of stories. The Id-Writer doesn’t even care about writing the perfect story, a great story, or even a good story. It just wants to write the NEXT story. No, even that is more direction than the Id-Writer can even conceive of. It just wants to WRITE and CREATE and feel alive with the magic of creating and writing and to bathe in the ink-blood of its freshest kill, its newest bastard child born squalling into the world.
The Id-Writer is none other than the writer’s purest self. Untainted by doubt, undaunted by the monstrous task of telling a coherent story, unafraid of rejection. The Id-Writer knows only one direction: forward. He knows only one speed: Ludicrous. He knows only one foe: the cage that we lock him into.
I think that too many writers — myself, naturally, included — don’t acknowledge their Id-Writer enough, if at all. They’d rather lock the Id-Writer away in his cage, where he can’t do any damage. Where he can’t smash up the china and chew up the wallpaper and carve his initials in your forearm. They would rather leave the Ego-Writer in charge, the planner, the plotter, the wordsmith. Those guys are predictable. They’re the ones that know what they’re doing. But they are also the ones who get writer’s block. The ones that hit walls and don’t know how to get around them. The Id-Writer knows what to do with writer’s block: the same thing it does to everything else. It chews it up and spits it out as it does the gristly bone of its latest meal, or it vaults it as it chases the wild story like a gazelle across the open plain, or it lowers its head and smashes it to oblivion as it does the golems that stand between it and the daylight of inspiration. The Id-Writer doesn’t even know what writer’s block is. Writer’s block to the Id-Writer is as a rock in the midst of the Rio Grande, a handrail to a parkourist (yep I just made that a word if it wasn’t one already), a cop with a speeding ticket to a hedge-fund millionaire’s daughter. The Id-Writer bounces off that sharknado and keeps going without missing a step.
Handing over the steering wheel to the Id-Writer is terrifying. You don’t know where you’re going to end up. You don’t know if you’re going to smash into a tree five minutes down the road and have to walk home, or run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and have to hitchhike, or run over a pedestrian and have to bury the body in the woods. What you do know is that the ride will be incredible and inimitable and worth fargoing writing about, which, really, is the whole point, isn’t it?
The Id-Writer is in there, in you, just burning and foaming at the mouth to tell your stories. Don’t get distracted by that insane look in his eye. And whatever you do, don’t think about the fact that if there’s a crazy look in his eye, it’s only a reflection of the one in your own.
Just hand him the keys and buckle up.
Fargoing Space Unicorns. They found their way in after all. Thanks, Id-Writer. *Dodges a still-beating Space Unicorn heart flung by the Id-Writer*