“How to Survive Your Inner Demons: Special Version for Writers” by Penny Perkins

1. Demons are spawn of hellfire and brimstone. They sweat blood and live in the cauldrons of excruciating Mercury-like temperatures and Jupiter-like atmospheric pressures. Consequently, they need relief, too. Offer them a refreshing beverage. It will help take the heat off. Pink Lemonade is a favorite among demons. But never on any circumstance offer Red Bull or Monster. These FDA-approved concoctions have been know to grow demons three times their original size!

2. Do something unexpected in your battle with the demon. Most effective: ask the demon about his own backstory. Where did he grow up? Does he have any demon siblings? What were the conditions of his birth? What were the circumstances of his death: Was he brutally murdered and dismembered, or tortured with bullwhips, or bound by rusty chains in dungeons? What was his favorite toy as a child-demon? Engaging an adversary in the dramas of his own narrative takes the focus off of you and offers the demon an audience through which he can explore his own inner turmoil, which may be fueling or exacerbating his persecution of you.

3. Everyone has a guilty pleasure. Even the demons who taunt and massacre you. Find out what is the go-to escape hatch for your demons. Did they just spend a week binge-watching Orange Is the New Black seasons 1 and 2 back-to-back? If so, dig in! Are they Team Piper or Team Vause? What about that awesome evil Vee character—dead or not? And how lame is that Larry dude? And, my goodness, Pornstache is almost growing on me! (Not literally, of course.) Find your demon’s guilty narrative pleasure and focus on that instead of the torments that are preventing you from finishing your own literary to-do list.

4. Take the demon for a drive. Hitting the open road (or even meandering down new city blocks full of traffic and double-parked delivery trucks spewing exhaust from diesel idling engines) is a swell way to interrupt the constant gnashing of sharp teeth against the tattered cloth of your fragile soul. Roll down the windows, leave on the air conditioning, pop in some old-school tracks that remind the demon of his younger years. A ride in a car with no destination is a time-honored American cure for all sorts of internal ailments—not to mention a neat way to expedite global warming and the extinction of the human race, which will also end the problems you are having with your demon in a different way.

5. If all else fails to give you relief from your demons, look them straight in their dead, black, shark eyes, and simply say out loud: you don’t exist. Then be sure to update your Facebook status and hit your Twitter feed with #DemonsExtinguished and #FinishingMyNovel.

Penny Perkins has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. Her short story, “Car Ride Through Corn Fields (1975),” was chosen by Manuel Muñoz as the winner of Beecher’s Magazine‘s 2014 Fiction Contest. Recent short stories have been published in Waxwing and HOAX. Other publication credits for fiction, poetry, and non-fiction include Salon, Conditions, The Portable Lower East Side, Curves, Girlfriend No. 1, and Book.

Image: “What a Woman Should Know,” from Albany Public Library History Collection

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