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Stew21
02-20-2007, 09:31 PM
How much do you trust your writing instincts? I think I realized today that I don't trust mine enough and I'm just curious if it is me and an attitude I need to work on or something more universal to writers.

I started a chapter that I knew I needed, knew its purpose in the overall scheme of the book. I don't outline, so most of what I write is a surprise to me, but I generally know a direction I need to go on the onset of a new chapter. I hated writing it. Every second of it, I hated it. I complained about it here - oh how I hate this chapter, nothing is happening, now what? blah blah blah, whine whine whine - but I wrote it anyway, and surprisingly, it took shape, ended wonderfully, and something my brain (muse?) told me a month ago (about the girl in the trunk? there is no girl in the trunk!) suddenly came into play, and bam, chapter done, mission accomplished with the chapter, and a place to go from there.
So i suddenly thought, wow, if I would have just shut up and stopped whining I would have gotten there faster. if I would have just trusted the writer's instinct - where I thought nothing was happening was really a set up for some character developments by the end of the chapter I would have gotten there angst-free. How exactly do I start trusting myself? how did you? Do you trust yourself and/or muse?

CheshireCat
02-20-2007, 09:57 PM
It takes a lot of time and repetition to learn to trust your muse, and even then you'll catch yourself agonizing once again, for a least a while, before you realize what you're doing and that you need to just relax and follow your story.

Meerkat
02-20-2007, 10:02 PM
Darn it--I was hoping you were here to tell us all the answers!!

Truthfully, I trust my instincts too much. Because if I did not, I might have at least one of my four ms's published by now. I am now leaning more towards trusting a ghostwriter's instincts.

Simon Woodhouse
02-20-2007, 10:11 PM
I'm not sure I have a writer's instinct. I don't write the first thing that comes into my head. I roll things around a lot, make lots of 'what if' notes. Once I'm clear on what I'm writing, why, and how it'll influence things to come, then I make a start.

Novelust
02-20-2007, 10:12 PM
My muse is like this dog I used to have. You let that leash go--bam, she's gone. Over the hills, through the woods, and away.

My muse needs boundaries, otherwise what comes back is a big, messy pile of nothing. Maybe it's entertaining nothing--it's usually interesting nothing, at the very least--but it doesn't usually serve the story I'm telling.

PeeDee
02-20-2007, 10:45 PM
Novelust has got it right.

I trust my muse right up to the moment when I don't. I wouldn't trust it with my life, or a dollar.

That said, I have instincts that have nothing to do with the minutiae of the story (bigger picture writing instincts, maybe?) and I trust them implicitly. They're what tell me that this robot idea I have is good and I should chase it down and try to find a market for a stupidly-long serial. And they're the same instincts that make me look at my Rome novel and say "Wait on it for a bit."

Stew21
02-20-2007, 10:55 PM
I need to learn that just because what I'm writing at the moment doesn't seem like much it really is part of the story. and you konw what, if it isn't, I'll edit it out in draft two, nothing lost right? So why do I keep sabotaging myself mid-chapter. I don't trust myself. I should know by now, right? And the instincts on the bigger stuff. Yes, I have that. I had started versions of this story before without realizing it, and never finished them beyond an opening scene. Knew it wasn't right. the morning I started writing this one, it started completely differently, I set out to write a short story, and suddenly it was "that story" just different and better. I suppose that's instinct?

lfraser
02-20-2007, 10:57 PM
At this point I think I need to trust my instincts more than I have. I did a good outline for my story, but I've been trying too hard to stick to it. For the past couple of weeks I've been making progress, but it's felt like pulling teeth, which is neither enjoyable nor productive. I was boxing myself into a scene that I imagined a year ago, and it was, frankly, boring me. It also contained a plot hole. Last night I took the blinkers off and thought of another ten ways the story could go -- without that scene -- and today I've already made good progress. But I think it's less instinct and more learning to recognise when something is boring and stupid.

jodiodi
02-20-2007, 11:29 PM
I just write what the characters tell me/trascribe the action on the screen in my head/describe the feelings and sensations of the characters involved in the scenes. Then, once it's done, I read it and decide whether or not I think it works. I don't know if that's trusting instincts or not. As far as I know, I have no writer's instincts. I'm just trying to learn what I'm doing wrong via input from others though in the end, I'm still going to tell the story that I see/hear/feel.

It's understandable to have doubts. I doubt myself at every turn and submitting work isn't conducive to building trust in one's 'instincts' given the high ratio of rejections to acceptances. I'd say just write what comes and worry about editing it when you re-read it.

But then, what do I know?

Stew21
02-20-2007, 11:44 PM
Your method is very similar to mine, jodiodi, it's just that as I am "transcribing" from my characters, I doubt them/the direction/etc, get filled with angst and anxiety about how it's going, and worry about it too damn much. I struggle turning it off and just writing.
I don't trust myself to tell the story the right way. (somehow I forget that it is my story to tell?) If I would have just trusted myself I would have gotten this damn thing written a lot sooner.

Jamesaritchie
02-21-2007, 12:00 AM
I've always had 100% faith in my writing instincts. I've had no reason not to do so. But I also have great faith in the opinion of many editors. It's give and take, but if a line gets drawn, if I have to trust my own instincts or someone else's, I trust mine.

Will Lavender
02-21-2007, 01:46 AM
I've always had 100% faith in my writing instincts. I've had no reason not to do so. But I also have great faith in the opinion of many editors. It's give and take, but if a line gets drawn, if I have to trust my own instincts or someone else's, I trust mine.

Me too.

The minute you lose faith in your ability, you're doomed.

Authorial control is the greatest gift a writer can give to his reader. If I ever feel the author is slipping on me or cheating in some way, I close the book.

Stew21
02-21-2007, 01:58 AM
well I managed 1500 words today, so I worked through it alright. No speaking for whether it is good, but it is written. Onward!

writerterri
02-21-2007, 02:42 AM
You just do what you did and write it.

easypeasylemonsqueezy.

Sean D. Schaffer
02-21-2007, 06:27 AM
I think I might trust my instincts too much. My instincts are, any time I ever begin a work, to stop working on it and throw it away. How many good ideas I've thrown into the circular file over the years, I cannot fathom.

What I realized about, oh, a month ago, is that I need to stop listening to my instincts or my feelings, and just write. If it comes across to me as stupid at first, doesn't always mean it's going to when I get the first draft done.

Of course, I do trust my instincts nowadays where my subject matter is concerned. Too long I went without following that instinct, and I think that's what nearly destroyed my entire aspiration to become a professional writer. In a way, I'm glad it almost did so, though, because I now understand I could not handle being a full-time professional writer because of several mental illnesses I suffer from. However, part-time writing is for me, the way to go. In that, and in my subject matter, listening to my instincts was a good thing.

So I think instinct is good or bad, depending on what your instinct tells you to do. I know it's probably not much help, but it's what I've learned about my own writing instincts and when--as well as when not--to listen to them.

janetbellinger
02-21-2007, 06:51 AM
That's good Sean. Definitely don't trust instincts which say your writing is bad. That's not instinct anyway. It's old conditioning which leads you to put down your writing. I know exactly where you're coming from though.

maestrowork
02-21-2007, 07:32 AM
You can never trust yourself. Deep down you may know you're a good writer, have talent and creative instinct. But you can never trust that everything you write is going to be gold, or everything you think is gold is gold. That's why we have beta readers, critters, editors, etc. Even seasoned, extremely talented writers don't come out with gems all the time. I think it's -- call it a curse or blessing -- part of the writer's life to also doubt themselves, or to be dissatisfied with what they've done. That's part of growth.

virtue_summer
02-21-2007, 10:26 PM
Actually, I think there's a difference between trusting your instincts in general and thinking every word you write is gold. I've never thought every word I wrote was gold, but I have begun to learn to trust my general instincts. If I didn't, I'd never get anything written. I'd think "hmm, maybe I should start this scene here." Then I'd criticize it. I'd think "This is the right point of view to use." Then I'd criticize it. To me, trusting your instincts means that you don't have to come up with detailed logical reasons for every single thing you put in your work. You trust yourself enough to write the scene with whatever setting, character, etc, appears to you. You may alter some things later, but you trust that whatever your muse is telling you to write is the correct thing to write for that story at that time. If I didn't trust my instincts, I'd never get a rough draft down. I'd never get to the point of checking the words themselves at all to see if they were gold.

Judg
02-21-2007, 10:38 PM
I trust my negative instincts much more. If something bothers me, there's usually a good reason.

Will Lavender
02-21-2007, 10:48 PM
You can never trust yourself. Deep down you may know you're a good writer, have talent and creative instinct. But you can never trust that everything you write is going to be gold, or everything you think is gold is gold. That's why we have beta readers, critters, editors, etc. Even seasoned, extremely talented writers don't come out with gems all the time. I think it's -- call it a curse or blessing -- part of the writer's life to also doubt themselves, or to be dissatisfied with what they've done. That's part of growth.

You seem to be talking about an extreme level of trust. One that borders on arrogance.

That's a different thing.

For me, trust is also about trusting myself to cut out the bullshit in a revision. Because there's going to be a lot of it. And trusting my agent, my editor, etc., because they know what they're talking about. And trusting that a rewrite is going to work.

Something I tell my students:

If you ever look back at your work and see something flawless, you aren't looking hard enough.

Stew21
02-21-2007, 11:11 PM
The instincts I was referring to involve writing a scene and questioning its purpose, and agonizing over it, only to realize later that it did have a purpose. I was also surprised to find that an idea which I thought had nothing to do with this story came into play in that same "why am I writing this?" chapter, and it is a very valid point for one of my characters. I didn't realize it before because I didn't trust my instincts.
that's what I'm talking about. Believe me, I can't imagine I would ever write anything i would consider gold. I am my worst critic. I can't see that changing. I was talking about the instincts of plot and story direction.

Pagey's_Girl
02-22-2007, 07:04 PM
The instincts I was referring to involve writing a scene and questioning its purpose, and agonizing over it, only to realize later that it did have a purpose. I was also surprised to find that an idea which I thought had nothing to do with this story came into play in that same "why am I writing this?" chapter, and it is a very valid point for one of my characters. I didn't realize it before because I didn't trust my instincts.
that's what I'm talking about. Believe me, I can't imagine I would ever write anything i would consider gold. I am my worst critic. I can't see that changing. I was talking about the instincts of plot and story direction.

I just went through the same thing this morning. I was at a point where I had to fill in more of the backstory, and when I was writing it, it felt like an info dump. But upon re-reading, I think it worked out better than I hoped.

Layla Nahar
02-22-2007, 07:38 PM
I really understand you. I have a hard time just *letting myself write* -- I really appreciate the poster who said :

It takes a lot of time and repetition to learn to trust your muse

I'm just cottoning on to that idea - & do catch myself agonizing over things even when I try to trust my instincts/muse whatever. Trial & error... & it seems the more tries you make & the more you develop a feel for what is the right move, and what isn't ...

I'm glad I'm finally at the point now where I can actually make a try