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).

Lulu Oberkotter

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to time, despite its many failings) had not yet been informed about certain stylistic elements which are now considered outdated, mostly relating to POV.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.

14 Comments

Timark

good advice.

Dec-20 2022

Vicktorya

Yup. What @Timark said.
Thanks for the articulation.

Dec-20 2022

Goldilox

Agreed. March to your own beat.

Dec-20 2022

Timark

Gut mind heart. Write with your soul!

Dec-20 2022

Jcgreen

Of course, what you are really saying is that your subconscious brain is picking up on things, but your higher brain is struggling to put those instincts into words and so make the issues concrete. Totally agree with that. I’m doing a review at the moment, and I know that I will only get half my true reservations about it onto the page. I don’t have the skill to articulate the rest.

Dec-20 2022

Timark

This is a common problem, I think.

Dec-20 2022

Luluo

Sure, but that hardly rolls off the tongue!

Dec-20 2022

Harbinger

Thank you for this post!

Dec-20 2022

Lion1129

It was something I needed to know

Dec-20 2022

Ger

I like the quote from your story, it’s very fitting.

Blockquote 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).

I think you’re right about feeling with your guts, and your blog made me think of how our abilities to appreciate writing change with experience.
First, as readers, we only know whether we like something or not, but not necessarily why.
Then, as writers, we become artisans and hone our intuition so that we can create something appealing.
Finally, as critics, editors, and philologists, we learn to deconstruct the components of the craft and attain a more structural understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

I suppose we all have a bit of all of these abilities, and probably vary from one to the other depending on what we need and want.
Thanks for sharing!

Dec-21 2022

Luluo

Precisely why getting critiques from different kinds of people is so important!

Dec-21 2022

Colliewob

Sound advice. I started watching videos on how to write and reading a course book on creative writing. While interesting and useful to a degree, they also led me to over-analyse, which in turn led me to less writing. I still think there is a place for this, but I’ve gone back to what kicked off my urge to write in the first place…reading.

Couldn’t agree with this more. CC has helped me enormously.

Dec-22 2022

Quantum

Lots of us mirror what you say. My best chance for embarrassment is taking something I wrote months ago and assuming it represents what I learned recently. Bad brain, bad!

Aint’ apologizing, though. Brain asks for feedback, uses it. Good brain! Here’s to the partnership in each triumvirate, head, gut, heart.

Dec-23 2022

Olddog63

You know, there’s a mirror side of that as well.
More than once I’ve gone back and looked at something I’ve written and thought “Did I really write that? It seems much too good to have come out of MY brain.”

And for what it’s worth, I’ve always written from my gut more than anything. Mostly because so much of what I’ve read and studied doesn’t really fit in with what the “rules” these days claim is the proper or right way to do things.

…and also 'cause I’m just a stubborn ass that doesn’t like being told what to do. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Dec-23 2022
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