Just yesterday one of my editorial writers corresponded when she received her edited manuscript and critique. That’s always a bit overwhelming for writers, but she said the magic words: “I hear what you’re saying about this one chapter, but my gut instinct is I need it.”
And my response was, “Absolutely follow your gut instinct!”
The chapter needs reworking and she understood that. Something required for the storyline. But it didn’t come across on the page.
The point being, although the essence got lost in translation, deep inside she knew the book needed it.
And that sort of intuition is never ever wrong.
The trick is of course in any situation, especially creative endeavors, to actually be able to discern between that instinct and fear. Because they can sure feel similar at times.
Once you get the hang of the process though, this becomes easier and easier to do.
Fear always comes across as a loud voice. It’s the one that screams at you right off the bat to run this way or that. Go do something! And stress hormones accompany it—the kind that causes your heart to race, your nerves to tingle. The old fight-or-flight response.
The voice of intuition whispers in the quiet recesses of your mind. It settles in your solar plexus (thus, the “gut” instinct). And it doesn’t go away.
Fear belongs to the ego. For writers, it manifests as resistance to change. “I don’t want to ax that passage! Some of my most beautiful prose is there.”
We hear this all the time 🙂
Takes courage to be a writer. You do have to be willing and able to kill your babies. And fear will surely scream loudly that doing so would be wrong!
But as in this and any situation, a way exists to sort through the differences between fear and gut instinct.
Do these 3 things:
Calm all of those racing (and redundant) thoughts. Still your mind, just for a bit. Otherwise fear will manifest in myriad ways to keep you from being able to hear the wisdom within.
Is your heart racing?
Is your mind still trying to whirl?
Are you ready to jump out of your skin?
If so, then you have fear snarling in your ear. May mean that you do have something to be afraid of here, although this is not the time to make decisions!
But if you’ve calmed down and the voice is quieter, if you’re “hearing” in whispers, then by all means—listen . . .
With writing especially, if a nagging sense that something needs changing persists, then it does.
Often writers say to me things such as, “I keep thinking I need to add a scene about . . .” Or, “I just know in my gut this character holds more importance to the story than I’m giving him.” Or any variety on the theme.
And if that’s the case, then it truly is your intuition guiding you through the dark waters. Listen to it and act.
We’ve used writing as the example here (since that’s where I am all day every day :)), but this method works with anything, from deciding whether to go on that blind date to taking a job across the country. Your intuition, that gut instinct, knows the answer.
Within everyone lives an all-knowing wisdom, a deep instinct that will always steer you in the direction best for you. Beneath the monkey-mind ego, beneath all of the fears and hopes and dreams and sorrows, lives this wonderful guidance system, whispering to be heard.
Listen closely. And follow.
As Albert Einstein said, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.