Sunday, August 09, 2009

Trust your instinct

Each stroke that you take in the water propels you forward into the unknown, and all you have to guide you is your instinct, a sense of where you’re going, a sense of where you might want to go, or maybe where you need to go.

How do you develop that oh-so-elusive instinct which serves as a guide?

How do you learn not only to notice when your instinct is guiding you but when to trust–and follow–it?

For some writers, the ability to trust their instinct takes years. For others, it’s immediate, a kind of inner recognition that they’re born knowing.

Still others are born with it, only to lose it over time, and then spend years struggling to regain that trust in it and in themselves.

It may seem that knowing which way a story should unfold--which words to use, how long to craft a sentence, the amount of space to leave between paragraphs, the development of plot lines or characterizations--is innate, something that's part of a writer's DNA.

And maybe that’s true.

But only partly.

Maybe instinct is partially innate, but there's a part that can be honed and refined through the writing process itself, as well as through reading the stories of other writers and the craft books on writing in which writers share their insights and tips on writing.

Every writer at some point has to figure out how to trust the instinctual part of the writing process.

The question is: how do you develop that kind of trust?

How do you learn to recognize your instinct, then trust your instinct to take you where you need to go?

One way is to write day after day, year after year, even on the days when it’s not at all clear where your instincts are leading you.

Another way is to read stories, interviews with other writers, books on the craft of writing, anything, really, that piques your interest and curiosity about life.

Sometimes it’s helpful to read books that other writers have found worthwhile in their own efforts to put words on paper.

And sometimes it’s helpful to check out books that other writers have written about their own writing process... so you can better understand your own writing process.

Here are a few lists that you might find worth exploring:

Do you have a list of books--or interviews on writing--that you’d like to share with others at Wordswimmer? Why not take a moment to share your discoveries? You never know which book or interview may lead you (and others) to new insights into writing.

Thanks in advance for you contributions.


Felicia Fredlund said...

One of my favorite books on writing is Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. I got recommanded the book by the author Randy Ingermanson (the inventor of the Snowflake Method -
And I have to say that it's a great resource.
Randy is also writing a Dummy book on fiction writing that will be published in November this year, which I will definately buy. I already know that it will teach me a lot about writing.

Angela said...

I love Georgia Heard, Anne Lammot, and Natalie Goldberg. Elizabeth Berg also wrote a book about her writing process as well--Escaping into the Open. It's wonderful! This is a timely post for Studio kids and teachers, Theresa. We've been discussing perseverance, and during conferences over the last two weeks, some of them discussed how studying the process of other writers helps them persevere as writers themselves. I'm going to post this on our ning and invite the kids and teachers there to respond. I hope they will drop by and contribute to this great conversation you are starting.