The poet Seamus Heaney warns that a writer “shouldn’t waver into language” or “tame the strangeness of this words.” For, he goes on, “The luminous turns of his poems are a matter of following on down that road of truth.”
Whatever you are writing––poetry, memoir, self-help, fiction––Heaney’s words are important to remember. He is encouraging us to write with boldness, to find our particular way of describing things. Heaney implies that writing is like heading out for a walk without knowing the destination. We are in process of discovering, following the path of our own truth and seeing where it takes us.
In thinking of Heaney’s words, I am reminded that there is a difference between trying to be original and allowing ourselves to be authentic. When we attempt originality, we are, in fact, forcing our deep and intuitive way of seeing the world into a mold that defines originality for us. You can feel it in works that proclaim their eccentricity, but leave us, the readers, cold. Authenticity is different.
When we write authentically, we trust the writing to lead us into our unconscious where surprising and unexpected images and insights reside. When we write authentically, we can’t help but be original. We aren’t trying to be, but in not taming the strangeness of our words, we are standing in the wonderful particularity of our own souls.
So try this: For a week, simply write on your topic without restraint. Each day, after you’ve written, ask yourself these three questions:
What did I learn?
What surprised me?
What feels important to pursue?
And let me know how it goes.