Intuition May Be the Key to Better Writing in Less Time

Intuition, which is also fundamental to writing fiction, is a special quality which helps you to decipher what is real without needing scientific knowledge, or any other special kind of learning.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude


Have you ever begun writing a work of fiction with a clear idea where you want to go with it, only to see it head off in a different direction, seemingly all on its own? New characters showed up you hadn’t dreamed of, and they were more complex and interesting than the ones you had originally outlined. New scenes that you hadn’t planned evolved in your imagination that made the story more suspenseful.

Or maybe you began writing an essay about a certain topic, say a generic one about motherhood. As you began writing it though, a different idea took hold, perhaps about becoming a new mom during the pandemic. When you began writing that new essay, the process came easily, seamlessly, and the words flowed. You could almost visualize every word before you wrote it.

You can’t explain what happened in these instances or why. Only that you were guided by a little voice inside that instructed you what to write. Some describe that little voice intuition.

Ask any writer how they define intuition, and they’ll give you a variety of answers.

Colleen Story at Writing and Wellness blog calls it your “writerly instincts,” that inner knowing that you have about your work.

“When a scene works right, you’ll feel it in your bones. You’ll experience a ‘yes’ moment,” writes C.S. Lakin at Live Write Thrive blog. “Conversely, when a scene or character feels out of place you know that too. The more you try to rationalize it, the stronger the ‘No’ becomes.”

That’s why it’s important to listen to your body, Lakin says.

That inner knowing that something is off in your writing is common among writers, especially those whose level of intuition is high. Intuition is that internal sensor of what is going wrong with your writing – and what is going right. It’s there to redirect your efforts so you make smarter choices about plot structure, character and dialogue, even the right word choices.

Listening to the inner “knowing” can build your confidence too. “A well-honed writing intuition can free you from much of the emotional volatility you experience when someone is ‘dissecting your baby’. It means developing greater confidence in your work, disengage from negative emotions and response patterns because you see wisdom in the feedback you get,” writes Angela Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers.net.

No matter what you call it, intuition can serve an important function during the writing process.

Whether we believe it or not, we are all born with intuition. It’s just that many of us tune it out or don’t pay attention to it. Some writers might ignore that voice, and stick to the story line they created in their outline. Others embrace it freely, allowing their intuition to guide their choices during the writing process.

The worst possible scenario is recognizing that it exists but not trusting it. When you don’t trust that inner “knowing,” you may ignore the power it gives you to improve your story.

I can’t tell you how to trust your intuition more. That’s up to you to figure out. But there are several things you can do to enhance your intuition so that it’s accessible and sharper. For starters, you have to learn to practice mindfulness. (These suggestions are also helpful for overcoming writer’s blocks and getting out of ruts.)

1. Take frequent breaks from your work-in progress. Time and distance gives you better perspective. If you feel stuck, set it aside for a day or two. When you come back, you may notice solutions you hadn’t thought of before.

2. Enjoy the outdoors. Being in nature can help you clear your head and perhaps inspire you to write something completely different. Keep the headphones at home too.

3. Practice meditation. Sit quietly on the sofa with your feet planted firmly on the floor, or sit cross-legged if you prefer. Lay your hands in your lap and close your eyes. Let your breathing slow. Follow that breath. As your breath slows, so does your brain. Release every distracting idea that crosses your mind.  

4. Do something else for a while. Work on another piece of writing, read a book, or take a nap. Maybe putz around in the kitchen or clean out a closet. The act of doing something else will engage you brain in other ways.

5. Immerse yourself in water. As strange as it sounds, water can release the tension in your brain as well as your body. Go for a swim, wash dishes or take a bath. In astrology, water is associated with creativity. Immersing yourself in water can help you re-engage your creative side.

6. Tune in to your body. During your walks or meditation or during any quiet moment of the day, sit quietly and notice what is happening with your body. Notice any aches and pains, any stiffness, or any other physical ailments. How does your body feel when it’s relaxed compared to how it feels when you feel tension? It’ll show up in your body in places you didn’t expect. Your body will tell you when something – whether it’s in your personal life or your writing life. Pay attention to those signals that it sends you.

A funny thing happens when you trust your writing intuition. The writing seems to flow more easily, the characters are more complex and nuanced, and the dialogue more interesting. Ultimately, listening to your intuition – and trusting what it tells you – can help you write more engaging stories.

Fearful Fantasies vs. Authentic Intuition

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Ever find yourself thinking way ahead of yourself because your imagination has propelled you into the unknown future? It might provide a pleasant interlude for the moment, but in the long run, nothing realistic or concrete can come from that experience.

In fact, living in the future and engaging in fear-based thinking can be detrimental to our health and well-being, and our business success. Astrologer Rob Brezsny describes the differences between fearful fantasies and true, authentic intuition in a profound, thought-provoking essay. As Brezsny writes, knowing the difference between these two elements is “one of the greatest spiritual powers you can possibly have.”

Fearful fantasies are those scary, alienating pictures that sometimes pop into your imagination. They are ego-driven, and they are false prophecies of events to come. Yet many people confuse these fearful fantasies with their intuition. For example, they may imagine someone they love getting into an accident, or losing a job. But these scary futuristic images are not true intuition, writes Brezsny.

True, authentic intuition, on the other hand, is driven by the soul and is never ruled by fear. It comes from “the wise, loving core of our being. It blooms in us like a slow-motion fountain of warmth. It reveals the objective truth about a person or situation with lucid compassion. It shows us the big picture.”

Powerful, heady stuff.

How many times have you found yourself drifting in fearful fantasyland or made choices based on imaginative half-truths? How many poor decisions have any of us made, believing we were being guided by our intuition, when we actually made those choices out of fear? I think we are all guilty of doing that at some point in our lives.

I think the real difference between fearful fantasies and authentic intuition is the placement of time — the past, present and future. Where are you living — in the now or in some time or place in the future?

In our fearful fantasies, we tend to relive events of the past or create future circumstances that may never materialize the way we imagine, while authentic intuition is based on present circumstances, seeing things as they currently are and not as we wish they could be.

Further, by staying in the moment, our thinking slows down so we are able to process events and people in real time. When we stay in the moment, we are able to tap into our intuition, giving it freedom to guide us and show us the truth of our lives, even if it might be painful or difficult. Our authentic tuition also provides the emotional tools we need to resolve those difficulties, without succumbing to fear-based thinking.

As Brezsny further writes: “True intuition may show us a difficult truth, but it always does so with a suggestion of how to deal gracefully and courageously with that difficult truth. True intuition may reveal imminent changes that could compel us to adjust our behavior, but it always does so in a way that empowers us.”

So how do we flush away those fear-based fantasies fed by our imagination and make room for more truth-based intuition? For starters, shut off images from the TV, social media, and newspapers and spend more time with nature. Stay in silence and meditate often. For many of us, that may be the best way to form a stronger connection with ourselves and avoid the perils of fearful thinking.