This is a guest post by Ollin Morales from Courage to Create.
I’m a fiction writer that approaches the creative writing process with a very “holistic” philosophy.
My philosophy is that I cannot create my best work on the page if I am not healthy spiritually, physically, psychologically and emotionally. My writing is only part of my “whole” and I know that if something isn’t right in one part of my life, it will directly affect my ability to be creative.
This philosophy is the premise of my blog, Courage 2 Create (C2C). C2C is an exploration of how the lives that we live affect the artistic work that we create; and, conversely, how our lives are also a work of artistic creation.
In the process of writing my novel and sharing the experience on my blog, I have found that, for each person, the path of life is very unique and personal, and often we must each create our own, unique paths from scratch.
How Writers Rely On Their Intuition
One of the greatest challenges in trying to create your life from scratch is finding the right balance between following your reason and following your intuition.
Fiction writers have to become masters of this “reason-intuition balance” if they are to get anything done.
When I sit down to write, for instance, I must rely heavily on my reasoning skills. The story must follow some basic rules of storytelling. For example: characters must be fully introduced at the beginning of the story or the reader has trouble caring for them when the climax arises.
But all along the way, a fiction writer might find moments when something tugs them at the gut.
This “tug of the gut” is what I call good ol’ intuition putting up its warning flag.
As writers, we learn to trust that “tug of the gut,” because, in the end, it will often lead us to solve a problem that we were struggling to solve.
For example: maybe we feel like something is lacking in the first chapter, and, in that moment, we get a “gut feeling” to leave the writing process for a while… only to find that, later, we read a book that helps us solve the issue in the first chapter that we had been desperately trying to solve all along.
So writers, more than most people, know very well to trust our gut when it pulls us in a direction that may seem random but may yield magical results in the end.
How Writers Rely On Their Reason
But writers also know what it’s like when their gut feeling is very tempting—but just doesn’t work on the page.
For instance, we might get the feeling that a certain character we created should only appear at the very end of the story. Our intuition may be convinced that this a good idea, but our reason will know better.
As I said before, writers know that every character that appears in a novel must appear at the beginning, and must be fleshed out before a conflict arises. If a character only appears at the end of a novel, the reader has no connection with that character whatsoever, and so, no matter how steep the conflict, the reader won’t care much about what happens to them.
So in this particular case, a writer will trust their reason and will have faith that if they rely on common sense and the basic rules of storytelling they will be led to a better story.
How Writers Balance Reason and Intuition
Let’s say there is a rider riding a horse through the woods, and it’s the middle of the night. After a while, the rider arrives at a fork in the road.
One of these two roads appears to be clean and safe, while the other looks dangerous.
So, the rider leads the horse towards the “safe-looking” path. But the horse throws a fit. The horse appears to be startled, and pulls the rider towards the more “dangerous-looking” route.
The rider doesn’t know this, but if he ignores the horse and goes down the “safe-looking” route, wolves will attack him. But, if the rider goes down the “dangerous-looking” route, he will arrive at a safe house.
If, in this anecdote, we see the rider as representing your reason and the horse as representing your intuition, we can see that if you follow the horse—your intuition—you will be led to safety. But if you follow the rider—your reason—you’ll end up in danger.
Now let’s say you “do the right thing” and allow your “horse” to guide your “rider” down the safer path.
After some time, you recognize that, in fact, your horse was right all along: this was the safer path. But after a while of letting your horse guide your rider, the horse starts to wander into the dark woods and ends up at a lake.
As your horse drinks from this lake, your rider starts to wonder whether they’re on the right track.
You see, the horse, unlike the rider, lacked any plans or strategies: it left that all up to the rider.
So, as you can see, once the horse (your intuition) led the rider (your reason) down the safest route, you should have given the responsibility of leading back to the rider, and then allowed the rider to plot a detailed course of action that the horse could then follow.
How All This Applies to Life
Another way to put it is to see your intuition as a compass with an arrow that points you in the general—right—direction.
A compass is extremely helpful, and if you don’t want to get lost, you can’t live without it. But a compass cannot chart your course for you: it gives you no details, no strategies, no methods of action.
Your reason, on the other hand, is the map. It is detailed, and on this map you can chart a more detailed course of action using your logic and problem-solving skills—but only with the help of your compass (your intuition.)
Over-reliance on intuition can lead you on a whimsical journey similar to Alice’s journey in Alice in Wonderland. This kind of approach to life is certainly fun and adventurous, but it will lead you to feeling lost and the world will appear to you as chaotic and unstable.
Over-reliance on reason, however, can lead you to a very deliberate, boring, “straight” path that is completely devoid of surprises, innovation, or excitement. This path is full of decisions that are purely motivated by fear, comfort, and security. On this path you will always feel like there’s something missing, or that life is empty and devoid of meaning and vibrancy.
Treating Reason and Intuition As Equals
Generally, the best strategy I have found is to listen to your Intuition first, and then quickly allow your Reason to take over—but don’t ever allow Reason to fully take over all your decisions. Allow your intuition to “butt-in” whenever it feels a strong need to do so. This approach creates a healthy balance between the two.
In the end, we must see reason and intuition not as enemies of each other, but as equals.
If we learn to utilize both reason and intuition, then we may discover that their combined force creates wonderful experiences that may lead us to a great life.
How do you find the right balance between reason and intuition in your life? Do you agree with me that reason and intuition should be used together and not against one another?
Ollin Morales is a writer. Courage 2 Create chronicles the author’s journey as he writes his first novel. This blog offers writing advice as well as strategies to deal with life’s toughest challenges. After all, as Ollin’s story unfolds, it becomes more and more clear to him that in order to write a great novel, he must first learn how to live a great life.
You can also follow Ollin on Twitter @OllinMorales.
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