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Going Off the Deep End
Kay Marie Porterfield, M.A.
Growing up, I was constantly warned away from the deep end of the pool. It was dangerous there and scary. Since my feet couldn't touch the bottom, venturing into the deep end was asking to be drowned, I was told.

Life had a deep end too, my elders cautioned. Going off this deep end had even worse consequences. Always keeping one's feet on the ground, both inside the pool and out, was critical to survival. (Looking back, I wonder why no one thought to teach me how to swim.)

If we want to create meaningful, deep and honest work as writers, artists, or in any other creative field, we are required to go off the deep end sometimes. Especially when we deal with personal material, we must venture beyond our firm and familiar footing. The deep end of creativity is filled with images and archetypes with visions, fantasies and the sharkey-dark longings of our shadow selves. It can be a frightening place.

Taking the plunge requires the courage to trust the water to support us. It also requires trusting ourselves to be able to make our way back to the shallow end, or at least to an edge that provides us with a firm grip on ordinary reality. Since no one teaches writers how to survive the deep end and return to tell the story, it isn't surprising that some of us ultimately become casualties.

Hemingway, Plath, and Fitzgerald come immediately to mind. British author Virginia Woolf actually killed herself by putting stones into her pockets and walking into a pond until the water covered her head and she drowned.

How dare you venture in over your head without suffering the same fate?

Wear a Life Preserver:

Before diving in, make sure to take safety precautions. When you neglect this, you increase your chance of panicking, thrashing about, and sinking to the bottom in exhaustion. Writers' life preservers are support systems are made up of caring people and a faith in something larger than themselves, whether it is their Purpose or a Higher Power.

Check Your Pockets for Stones:

Self-doubt, anger, fear, shame and depression are enough weigh anyone down so heavily that treading water becomes impossible. If you carry these weights, keep your feet on the ground while you work to lighten your burden. By the same token, don't venture into the deep end when you are fatigued or under extreme stress.

Know Your Limits:

After a time, deep water adventuring can be so seductive some writers don't want to come back to the prosaic life they left. No matter how tempting it may be, thinking that you can take up permanent residence in the deep end is an illusion. Writers are notorious for tricking themselves into staying in deep water beyond the point of prudence by using alcohol or drugs. When the highs wear off, they sink to the bottom. Many of the authors who venture too far and stay out too long see themselves as having no good reason for coming home. Create a fulfilling and balanced life beyond your writing that will call you back to solid ground when you are tempted to venture out too far or stay in the deep end too long.

Creative Writes:

Write about a time you felt that you might be going off the deep end as a writer. What were you writing about? What were the warning signs that you were going beyond your depth? How did you manage to get yourself back to the safety of shallow ground? What life preservers have you established for yourself as a writer? What life preservers do you need to establish? Where can you turn for help if you inadvertently find yourself in over your head and need someone to throw you a lifeline?

� Kay Marie Porterfield is a creativity coach, author and workshop leader. Her website, Live Your Creative Vision, is filled with information, links and resources that focus on the creative process and using creativity as a tool for healing and growth. She also offers a free newsletter, Creative Writes.