Writing Tips Skim Scum Off the Top

Writing Tips Skim Scum Off the Top

Sometimes I start writing first thing in the morning and I need to skim the scum off the top before I begin to dig down far enough into the unbroken, truthful parts. Here I am wading through emotions and a history which are not necessarily what I want to focus my energy on, but they are roaring their ugly, little heads wanting to be acknowledged anyways.

I ignore the scum at my own demise. Whole writing sessions have been lost to raging internal but ignored scum monsters.

So, every single time I begin to shape my morning pages I spend about five to ten minutes removing the emotionally crusty top layer.

It’s a messy job, but someone must do it.

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From the Front Porch

This morning is no exception. From my perch off the front porch I begin to spin words, however I am finding myself tripping over swirly monsters trying to peek out between the lines. It’s annoying. They taunt and ridicule my efforts. If I don’t deal with them soon they will get the best of me and a whole morning will feel wasted.

One of the things this election cycle brought into the forefront of my writing and thinking – the scum to skim off the top: how we navigate relationships when we don’t belong in those spaces anymore.

Elections can bring out messy stuff – when we have shifted too far from what our family of origins or faith communities consider to be the center of the group. When we are moving through unapproved places it is lonely and scary. It feels like there is no one to lean in and tell us it will be OK or to show us the way forward through the yuck anyways.

Relationship scum sticks to us. Our messy histories cling to us. And it can be difficult to navigate well.

We may find it difficult uncovering places, spaces, and people of hope.

As creative beings, we need to intentionally take the time to lop the yuck off the top. Maybe we need to find a therapist helper to listen well and provide us with new tools to better navigate the swirling. I write, read, take photos, and engage in riotous laughter often to keep sanity close. Some people paint or run or dance.

They (whoever THEY is) say authentic people can be ABLE. They self-critique, possessing an ability to be wrong more than they need to right, and offering consistency, transparency, and an ability to listen to other people well – are the signs of an authentic being.  And as this is my year of being ABLE – I find myself leaning hard into my realities with gentleness and humility. We need to be gentle with ourselves.

It is difficult to be gentle with yourself when the scum monsters are laughing and jeering. They aren’t forgiving or kind or even honest.



I look at what I have taken up or inherited.

Those things which are not loving, pure, kind, or even true, but I took them up as my own anyways. It hurts to get real with yourself. Self-critique is not for the weak or complacent. Looking back deep into our families and faith places is hard, necessary work.

Mary Karr says the only families which aren’t dysfunction are the ones with one person.

If you are new to this block – I talk about having a grand epiphany about HOW dysfunctional my extended family of origin is/was one heartbreaking summer a few years ago. God, that sifting hurt life hell. I hated every moment of it.

And it seems like every few months or so I uncover something else about the core of us – which I need to discard from my life or face with honesty.

I am not trying to discard them – the old broken places- although sometimes releasing completely what is behind us or what harmed us is the way we find wholeheartedness and healing and forward motion.

Sometimes the scum monsters really are too close for comfort.

Writing through the scum layers – digging deeper and deeper – into the holy, honest to God places is healing, hope-filled & often where the magic happens.

So, I keep creating & digging anyways.

Even when it is messy. Even when it stings.

What about you? What creative endeavors do you take up and how do you get through the scum to the healthy parts?


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