Even though I’m only just now getting around to reading the novel–well, I suppose “reading” as in listening to it on audiobook–one of my favorite horror stories of all time is Stephen King’s It. The 1990 made for television miniseries scared the hell out of me as a tween, and I loved it for it. There was always something about Pennywise, as portrayed by Tim Curry, and more recently by Bill Skarsgard, that really succeeded in both creeping me out and eliciting a delightful sense of terror in the whole killer clown as a villainous entity. I’d been unsettled by them before–Poltergeist jumps readily to mind–but this story really gave the trope new life in my imagination, and remains impossible to forget to this day.
I don’t know all of the lore behind It (hence the reason I’m listening to the audiobook), but I’ve certainly heard quite a bit of it, even without having read the notoriously doorstop-sized tome King wrote. I’ve been regaled with tidbits from the more cosmically inclined pieces of lore from the story by countless enthusiasts on YouTube. Friends who have read it have explained to me, in great levels of detail and with appropriate shock, the infamous group sex scene that has never been given life in the films. And I’ve heard, from friends, YouTubers, and internet boards at large about how It and its characters and settings connect with the rest of King’s larger dark universe. It’s fascinating stuff, and I plan to explore it as time and energy allow.
It’s no surprise to me that, at its heart, It is a story about consumption versus creation. Pennywise, as the titular It, consumes the children of Derry, Maine every 27-28 years before returning to its slumber. While It has no qualms about taking adults, It prefers children, particularly when they’re scared (the analogy of fear as a ‘sauce’ or ‘salt’ to the ‘meat’ that is the children). It consumes, then sleeps for nearly thirty years, then returns to consume again. Derry’s precarious prosperity seems tied to It’s existence, and even when Pennywise slumbers, It’s influence still manifests in subtle ways, which only seems noticeable to the town’s children.
Even the story’s heroes, the Losers Club, are plagued by the forces of consumption in their lives outside of Derry. Sure, they joined together as kids to defeat It, but once they moved on they forgot each other and their shared experience. They forgot about Derry, and It. And though they may have made prosperous lives for themselves, none of them ever managed to have children. The narrative suggests this is a result of It’s influence over them, even from afar, making Pennywise/It–already a consummate consumptive entity–a force that stops them from creating life of their own.
If It cannot consume the precious life you create, then you will not be allowed to create. Pretty dark stuff.
And it’s at this point that I tie that theme into my own life, and the lives of many artists, writers, creators, and humans at large. I learned a long time ago that, when people have free time, they basically spend it doing one of two things: creating, or consuming. Consuming food, consuming entertainment, consuming air, water, energy, and so on. Creation, while satisfying, is a lot harder to pull off, or at least do well: writing stories, painting, building, sculpting; hell, even cooking dinner is harder than eating it.
We rely on creators for the things we consume, and for many of us, having things to consume is all we need. There are a ton of creators out there, of many and various things, after all. But there are many of us who need more than to simply consume. Whether it’s a need to prove onself, or because someone has an idea or a thing they simply need to share with the world, there are creators.
For the past few months, I have not been one of them.
I’ve been caught up in the throes of consumption, and it’s not always easy to break out of them. For me, the poison tends to be video games, which are so very entertaining, but which also aren’t exactly good for encouraging moderation in their consumption. I haven’t written in this blog for several months, and have done little in the way of writing that wasn’t either directly related to my job, or directly related to video gaming. I have become obsessed with having the highest score, unlocking the latest reward, or getting the latest piece of shiny equipment for my characters.
All of which, aside from the straight objective of entertainment, serves no real purpose.
I’m not saying that entertainment in and of itself is a bad thing, but when you’re putting most of your spare time into it, it becomes an obsession. It takes you away from friends and family. It takes you away from creating–or in my case, writing. And ultimately, it can chip away at your soul. Your potential for doing other, greater, things is simply sucked away.
And I’ve finally started to feel that.
I’ve known it, intellectually, for some time. But knowing it and feeling the large swaths of time passing in idle bouts of doing essentially nothing are two separate things. The obsessive abandon you put into consumption of a particular thing eventually wears off, and you start to realize there’s more you could be doing, if you weren’t sinking all of your time, and energy, and passion into something that wasn’t already made simply to be consumed.
I’m not saying I’m kicking my video game habit. I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that. But I am saying I’m aware of it enough to be apprehensive. I’m trying to break free of it, or at the very least strike and maintain a healthy balance between my gaming and my creativity. I’m going to try to write more, though of course I can guarantee only that right now.
Hopefully this is the start of many more successive and regular blog entries. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a bigger chunk of my novel edited and ready for publication. Hopefully I can find the strength to leave behind the obsessions with which I distract myself from creating. Hopefully I can do all these things and much more.
Because hope, as Stephen King also wrote, is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And while that line may not be from It, It is also ultimately about hope, and its power (along with that of friendship) to overcome darkness.
So, as I continue to listen to It, I also have hope that I will continue to write regularly, and create regularly.