On Mondays, I write about things to love about writing and the writing life…please join me as I celebrate the Writer’s Journey! This week’s topic: intuition and how it can help your writing.
The Intuition Experiment
This month, my writing coach gave me a challenge: every problem or challenge I faced, I was to approach it first using my intuition, or “gut feeling.” Only then (if still needed) would I use my usual, analytical approach.
You would think that, as a writer, I would be extremely in touch with my intuitive side. Intuition and creativity both require an ability to access a part of the brain that is less linear and logical—but the truth is that I tend to approach even creativity in a fairly linear fashion. For example:
- I plot out novels in advance
- I create timelines
- I use a formula to help me write the dreaded synopsis
- I analyze books to see how they are structured, how the authors handle transitions, how they parcel out backstory
There’s nothing wrong with any of these techniques. In fact, I frequently blog here about analytical approaches to writing and revision. So why would I commit to experimenting with this new approach to writing and life—one that was admittedly unfamiliar and uncomfortable?
Because analytical, or “left brain”, thinking wasn’t always working. In this particular instance, I was trying to figure out how to create a better work/writing/life balance (always a challenge!) and felt like I was spinning in circles. I was also trying to write a synopsis for my novel, and the step-by-step approach yielded a list of boring plot points and did nothing to capture what I love about the story.
By approaching every problem and project with that analytical, left brain mindset, I was missing out on the creative leaps and intuitive understanding that my right brain could offer.
The Value of Intuition
I’m now wrapping up this month-long experiment. Has it been challenging? Yes. Has it been valuable? Absolutely. Over the past few weeks:
- I’ve gained an awareness of my default thinking style—that is, my tendency to approach problems, projects, and everything else in a linear, analytical, detail-oriented fashion.
- I’ve discovered that it takes a conscious act of will to approach problems using “right brain” thinking—for instance, by looking at the big picture, relying on intuition, trusting gut feelings.
- I’ve learned that often “left brain” thinking can only take me so far—and that, if I feel stuck, often shifting to a more “right brain” approach will get me moving again.
- I’ve learned that “trusting my intuition” and “going with my gut” can be extremely uncomfortable.
- I’ve also learned that it can be extremely effective.
For instance, remember that synopsis? I hate writing them, and this one was horrible.
“Try taking a more intuitive approach,” my writing coach suggested.
“Okay,” I said. “Um…how?”
“Well, what do you like most about your book?”
“I love…the relationship the main character develops with the orcas,” I told her. “I love the way she grows to love the ocean.” I went on, getting more and more excited as I told her about a few favorite character relationships and plot points.
She raised her eyebrows. [We Skype our sessions.] “When you started telling me about your book—just talking about it, the way you’d tell a friend—you became more and more animated. It didn’t sound boring at all.”
So…the next day, I picked up my pen and notebook and a printout of the dreaded synopsis and started writing about what I loved in the story. I tried to imagine that I was talking to a friend. I doodled in the margins, daydreamed—and wrote a kick-butt synopsis. One that reads more like jacket copy, the way it’s supposed to, rather than reading like a 5th grader’s obligatory book report.
I’d encourage you to identify your default approach to life and writing—right brain or left brain—and experiment with the opposite for a few weeks. I think the results will delight you!
What about you? Do you think of yourself as a right brain or left brain sort of person? How will you try the opposite thinking process (intuition or analytic thinking) this week? Please share in the comments—I love hearing from you!