Instinct Over Intellect


Posted on 23rd January, by Sarah in Writing. 2 Comments.

Today was an interesting day for me as a writer.

Last week I started writing two new books – simultaneously. I’m not sure what it is about me and upping the ante. With my penultimate book I challenged myself to write it in 30 days – just because. This time I’ve set myself 56 days to complete two books. Again – I’m not sure of the reason why. I just like having goals I suppose.

This means roughly writing 4000 words a day – about 2000 words on each manuscript. And I’m finding the exercise actually quite interesting. Those moments where I find myself losing attention or coming to a standstill on one I switch to the other and find myself fresh. So far it’s been easier to write two than to write one and to keep energised.

After writing my first two books (Hunting Lila and Losing Lila) I became a much more confident writer and stopped any pretence at planning. I’ve written six books now in two years and the last three I wrote just free flow style. I would sit at my desk, not really knowing where the story was going but just following the flow and trusting that my instincts were taking me somewhere good. Whenever my brain took over and ordered me in a panic to start thinking about it and planning I’d ignore it and just keep writing. Those books came from the gut. Purely from the gut. And yet the story development, plots and characters are all better formed than anything I’ve written to date. They’re better books (one day soon hopefully you’ll get to read them and agree!)

Anyway, back to these two new books I’m writing. The first ms is a young adult contemporary (so, new territory for me) and the second is an adult book (again, totally new territory.)

But today, maybe I woke up tired, I’m not sure, but I was having a downer day, the type of day where you start to question whether what you are writing is any good, whether anyone will buy it, whether you’re insane to keep going wasting precious time and energy on something that might be a pile of crap.

Particularly with the adult book – I kept thinking to myself – am I clever enough to write this? I mean I know I can write action and steam and paranormal hot boys, can I really write about this subject with any authority? Should I be more considered and spend more time plotting and thinking it through? So I spent all day getting stressed about the themes and the story arc and worrying that what I was trying to say wasn’t clear enough until I was in a really bad mood at the world (and went out and drank hot chocolate and bought a new bag to cheer myself up).

And then I was out at a birthday party and started listening in to a conversation between an artist and a designer. The artist was explaining to the designer how when he creates art he has to switch off his brain, which is trying to rationalize and impede his flow – aka his instinct. When he lets his instinct take over, he said, then he creates something of wonder, something truly representative of himself and that communicates exactly what is meant and is needed.

I smiled to myself, thinking, maybe that through this man and this overheard conversation the universe was trying to teach me a lesson. Maybe I need to stop thinking so hard and just come from the place that I usually come from – my gut – and not my head.

And then, as if to further emphasise this lesson, tonight lying in bed, my beautiful, smart, sensitive soul of a daughter said to me, ‘mummy are you OK?’

And I said, ‘I just had a rough day today. I’m a little sad about my work.’

And she said, ‘Is it about your book?’

‘Yes,’ I answered.

‘The book you’re writing at the moment? Do you want to talk to me about it?’

I smiled and kissed her and said, ‘That’s so sweet darling. I’m just a little worried that it’s not very good.’

And she stroked my arm and said, ‘Mummy you don’t need anyone to tell you that. YOU know if it’s good or not.’

What she meant was that all I needed to do was listen to the voice inside my head and it would tell me (failing that, she told me, I should ask Auntie Nichola – my best friend.)

I can’t believe I forgot this. And I feel so blessed to have a five year old who can remind me of it.

Lesson learned. Instinct over intellect. Every time.



2 Responses to “Instinct Over Intellect”

  1. The struggle I run in to when writing is, is this going anywhere?

  2. Sarah says:

    I never think about that…I just know that it’s going somewhere and guess that the story will reveal itself to me…;)

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