Reclaiming Skin: Writer as Artist

Selkie Bride Returns Home – sourced from Deviantart

Feeling dried out? Dig out that skin, slip it on and jump right in.

Each and every person has the ability to be creative. How people use their creative energy is an individual choice. The mediums of expression are endless: paint, sew, act a part, sing, cook, take pictures, dance, weave, plant a garden, play, write, make sculptures.

We create for many reasons: to express what we feel about the world around us, to discover ourselves, to let go of negativity, to let in light. While the excuses for why we don’t spend more time on artistic activities are just as diverse, the biggest obstacle is not giving yourself permission to create.

When I think of the creative self, I am reminded of the selkie. There are stories, found in many places around the world, that use different languages to tell the same tale, share the same message. The selkie tale is one of these stories; crossing cultural and geographical boundaries.

If you haven’t heard this tale before, briefly it goes like this:
A lonely fisher comes across a naked woman, who he realises is a selkie: a seal-like being that occasionally takes the form of a human, simply by peeling off their skin. He creeps up and grabs her discarded sealskin. When she protests, he uses moon-eyes to convince her to stay with him. Out of pity, she agrees. A decision she comes to regret. Stuck on land, she soon misses the ocean and starts to dry out, and becomes visibly unwell. Occasionally she begs him for her skin, promising to return to him after a much-needed swim. He always refuses, unwilling to budge. She eventually gives birth to a son, and she becomes tied to the world of humans.

Then comes that moment, when she realises that she can no longer bear being dried out. She hunts for her stolen skin, not even bothering to beg the man for its return. Some tales have the child showing her where the skin is, others have her spying on her husband, while in another version a storm uncovers the buried sealskin. There are many variations to how she finds her skin but its a certainty that she once again puts on her skin and returns to the water. At this point in the story she is often described as being torn between the love of her child and her need to go home, back to where she truly belongs; or there is the version where she dives right in, without a second glance at the shore. With or without regrets, she returns to the water: home.

Now the above is a very stark telling of a beautiful tale but, for the purpose of this post’s topic, it serves its purpose. What has this story to do with creativity, you may be asking. Well, water is often used as the symbol for emotions, higher thought and the unconscious mind; and creativity relies on these.

If creativity is the element of water, then the artist, as a creative being, is the selkie. The artist is born with a skin that can be taken off and put back on at whim;they reside mainly in the water but need the occasional timeout to sun themselves on a rocky island or hidden cove; they are often torn between the need to swim in the ocean of creativity or care for those they love (and other responsibilities); and they need to be careful that they don’t dry out too much, too often.

All well and good, but in reality there is little time to spend on our creative pursuits, such as writing. Not when there are so many people needing our attention: partners, children, parents, fur-kids, friends, and more. And don’t forget all those responsibilities that we carry (like day jobs), and the many little (and not so little) obstacles and mishaps; all stopping us from writing. And don’t get me started on writer’s block, or technological breakdowns, or non-understanding people, or lack of sales, or rejection slips, or the many other things that writers have to deal with. All of these things are real, they’re not excuses, they are legitimate reasons why we can’t write today, or yesterday, and maybe even tomorrow. Or are they?

Here is the key to this fairytale: the fisherman has not stolen our skins. Nor did we willing hand our skin over to another, even if for a noble cause such as love and responsibilities  No, we carelessly discarded them. Took them off and left them under some rock, under the pile of ironing, in the back of the wardrobe, in the bottom drawer of our desk, some dark corner of our house.

So, if you find yourself drying out, feeling not quite yourself, just go and get that discarded skin. Tch tch, there is no time for excuses, every other thing and person can wait. You won’t be gone long. Go on, dust that skin off, patch it up if you have to, and put it on. See, it still fits! Now don’t look back – just dive right in. Splash around in that water of creativity, do a belly flop if you feel like it, dive right down in to its depths. Doesn’t that feel better?

Image downloaded from Deviantart 10/4/2013 –

Other posts in this series:

Shedding Skin: Writer as Creator –
Exposing Skin: Writer as Exhibitionist –


  1. This was incredible! I am so guilty of always making excuses not to write and truly, I am surrounded by children and others who need me. I am at a point where I really need to “reclaim my skin” so I thank you sincerely for this post…spoke directly to me.


    1. Sandy, much thanks for the kind words of support here and on twitter. Your blog is inspiring, and so are you: writing amidst the chaos of 5 kids is amazing. I think that feeling guilty needs to be kicked to the kerb, especially by mothers.
      I’m now of an age where the demands on my time and energy have diminished (but may soon kick in again). However, as I’ve spent too many years bemoaning my ‘dried out skin’, I hope that I will be strong enough to always find time to dive into the pool of creativity.

      Keep writing, even if its just the rare reclaimed moments….for now.


  2. Wow! I remember being fascinated by selkies and kelpies when i was younger. Much more interesting than Disney princesses. Lovely writing. found you through Blog Carnival. xx


    1. Hi Eeh Bah Mum. I love your blog, which I discovered thanks to the Blog Carnival.
      Not only are tales of selkies and such more interesting than Disney Princesses, but they equip young (and not so young) girls with necessary survival skills; and teach them how to be proclaim their true self….sans frilly taffeta gowns and ribbons.


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