Write With Your Gut
If I may be so arrogant as to paraphrase a line from one of my own stories: My guts are not smarter than my brains, but they are wiser (and my heart is a moron who long ago lost its right to an equal vote in the committee).
If I have learned anything over the last two years—during which I went from just ‘writing a lot’ to becoming ‘a writer’—it’s that my gut knows best. Sure, my brain works through tedious problems with timelines, physics, world-building, grammar rules, research, precise details of magic systems, and so on. But it can’t logically riddle out why some prose works and some doesn’t. It can’t know how a particular character would react to certain situations, and it’s completely ignorant of how to make a story work thematically, rather than simply logically. For those things, I defer to my gut.
I learned this the hard way when writing my first novel. I relied far too much on my brain and ignored many of my gut’s nagging complaints. I mean, it told me I had to rewrite, like, a third of the novel! And I really didn’t want to. Besides, my gut didn’t even know why it felt this way. It just did. That wasn’t good enough for me. So I turned that manuscript over to a professional editor, as is. All the while, my gut screamed in protest. I’d be sorry, it declared. I would live to regret this decision.
Yeah, it was right.
Nearly all the issues the editor flagged were things my gut had warned me about. No, it hadn’t predicted everything he pointed out: My brain (which I still use from time to time, despite its many failings) had not yet been informed about certain stylistic elements which are now considered outdated, mostly relating to POV. But every piece of story, character development, and theme which I had left in the incompetent hands of that gray lump in my skull were complete disasters. Had I listened to my gut, in all its glorious wisdom, I would have saved myself (and that poor editor) a ton of stress.
I’ve since learned to work around the many mental detriments that come with being the proverbial ‘dumb blonde.’ Now, I can almost completely bypass my deficient cranial organ and write with my gut instead. There are too many things, writing related or otherwise, that it cannot understand or define. I believe this is true for nearly everyone, regardless of how trustworthy their brain is. For example, no one relies on their brain to determine what is good art. They are fools to ignore their gut when it doesn’t trust someone. And when our brain says, “this scene functions just fine to move the plot along,” but our gut says, “I don’t believe any of this, even if I don’t know why—just trust me,” there is no good reason to ignore that sage advice.
Listen to your gut, my friends. It’s a severely underappreciated organ.
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