Breaking the skin on the pool of your soul

Shouldn’t writing be easier?

I mean, geez. We’re just taking our thoughts and putting them on paper, are we not? Should be a pretty simple transaction:

Mind to page. Done.

So why is it so hard to get the words that come out of us to reflect what our soul is saying?

As we’re writing, it’s as if the words are being smooshed through filters upon filters of consciousness until they come drooping out a pulpy, diluted, nasty mess. Unrecognizable.

As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her (incredible) new book, Big Magic (which I’ve been pulling mass amounts of inspiration from as of late),

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney said that — when one is learning to write poetry — one should not expect it to be immediately good. The aspiring poet is constantly lowering a bucket only halfway down a well, coming up time and again with nothing but empty air. The frustration is immense. But you must keep doing it, anyway.

After many years of practice, Heaney explained, “the chain draws unexpectedly tight and you have dipped into waters that will continue to entice you back. You’ll have broken the skin on the pool of yourself.”

To drill deep on this point, we’re used to living from our surface selves. The part of us that has been taught from a young age to play nice in the sandbox. The part that’s been inoculated to bend and sway for everyone else and to put ourselves last.

But our soul sees right through that.

It wants it on the real.

Because we’ve been living most of our lives from this surface self, it’s developed a thick, infected, fatty layer of almost impenetrable strength.

Drilling through it is tough. And it takes time.

Drip by drip. One sentence at a time.

It takes a lot of (badly) written words to penetrate the thick layer of our surface selves and drill down deep into our true essence where the wellspring of our creativity lies.

But we eventually reach a tipping point. Like peeking over the edge of a cliff into the abyss, we know that we’re approaching a point of no return. We start to see our truth pour through us onto the page. And it can terrify us.

But this is what the writing calls us to.

Writing is the instrument used by our soul to pull us closer to ourselves.

Further and further down the well we go. Bucket after bucket of empty air being wafted out onto the page. Day after unrewarding day.

And then it hits.


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Jonas writes short, whimsical daily discourses here at Higher Thoughts. To get them delivered straight to your inbox as soon as they’re live, click here.