Acedia, the Writer’s Demon

When the eight “demons” of the 6th century, desert monks mutated into medieval Europe’s seven deadly sins, acedia, the “noonday demon,” was folded into sloth.
Acedia -
A mistake.

Acedia deserves special recognition. It is so uniquely active, especially in the lives of writers. Besides, it can hardly be called “sloth” since, more often than not, it demands a deal of activity.

Evagrius said this about acedia (based on the translation from the Praktikos by Luke Dysinger). Just substitute “writer” for “monk,” “desk/computer” for cell, and “book” for “way of life.”

Acedia is the most burdensome of demons…First, it makes the day appear to be fifty hours long. Then, it makes the monk look out his window, forcing him to bound out of his cell to …look round in all directions in case any of the brethren is there.

Translation: “If I don’t walk the dog she’ll never leave me alone. [Walks the dog] Okay, now I’m energized to write. I’ll just get the laundry in before I sit down. [Does the laundry, then vacuums.] Okay, really ready to write, now. While the computer revs up, I’ll make some coffee…[Cleans the kitchen before making coffee.] Oh. It’s 5:00. Time to make dinner.”

It makes him hate his way of life. It makes him think there is no charity left among the brethren; no one is going to come and visit him.* If anyone has upset the monk recently, the demon throws this in too. It makes him desire other places where he can practice an easier, more convenient craft.

Translation: “The writing life sucks. And I’m no good at it. Surely I can be equally creative doing something where I’d make some money. Like an actual job, fr Christ’s sake, something useful, not like the navel-gazing, self-indulgence of thinking I am a writer.”

It adds remembrance of the monk’s previous way of life, and suggests that he still has a long time to live, raising up a vision of how burdensome the his life is.

Translation: “If only I had a regular job with a guaranteed paycheck. With respect and a house and a retirement plan** Waah!!! The writing life is too hard. My stomach hurts. I’m so sick of hitting up my folks for funds to keep going.”

To be a writer is to be on intimate terms with this demon. Luckily, Evagrius offered cures as well as descriptions of the affliction. I’ll get into that next.

*The desert monks were not isolated. Twenty or thirty might live in caves within sight of each other.

** At least Obamacare alleviates the problem of impossible-to-afford health insurance.

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