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Reason Vs. Intuition: Finding The Right Balance

Horserider for Reason vs. IntuitionThis 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.

much love,


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.

Image 1:  babasteve  Image 2:  Albert Bridge

Thank you so much for reading.  If you liked this article, please support Ollin and share the link with others.  Thanks so much for your support!  Warmest wishes, Sandra [AWW home page]


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  1. Ollin,
    I like the fact that you’re using your intuition in your writing. Intuition is one way we writers receive inspiration – to write without it would create pretty boring manuscript. I agree – intuition and reason should not be pitted against one another as enemies. The proper way to make a decision is to use both faculties.

    One thing I don’t agree with though, is stating that if you rely solely on intuition you’ll be led to live a life of whimsy. No sane person claims to hear their intuition 24/7. There’s a definite line between being psychic and being psychotic. If anyone thinks they do hear intuition all the time – what that indicates is that you’re not really receiving intuitive guidance but, misinterpreting your will and imagination for your intuition –

    Thanks so much I really enjoyed the article.

    • Hey Angela,

      Ah, I understand what you mean. I believe we actually agree on that point. There might be some underlying issue if all you are relying on is your intuition.

      I guess all this is from experience, just experimenting. So in those brief moments when I followed intuition solely and ignored my reason I felt like Alice in Wonderland, and when I only relied on reason, I felt devoid of spirit.

      But when I relied on both I found the right balance. So my experience may not reflect everyone else’s. So thanks for pointing that out!

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it!

  2. I enjoyed your explanation of the reason-intuition balance used when writing, Ollin. That’s a valuable issue to examine, and I’m happily experimenting with it. The only thing I disagreed with is your assertion about needing to find balance in life before creating. So many great writers had unhappy personal lives, and most of the best songwriting comes directly out of periods of great pain and imbalance. Some of my best work was produced in confusion, and some of what has been most appreciated was when I was trying to crawl out from under obstacles. My readers identified with that because of their own struggles.

    I do think it is very important to seek balance and stability in life. I just think that’s a separate issue from producing works. I believe the largest part of what is required to create is the decision to begin doing it (including setting aside time for it), and the largest part of what’s required to improve the quality of the work is practice.

    • Oh of course. I think our challenges really help us create truth in our writing that readers can relate to. And if you read my blog you will see how I share many of the challenges in life that I face.

      I think you are going by the definition that others put to “a great life.” You might find that my definition of a “great life” is not one where everything goes perfectly but where we accept the mystery and work to overcome the challenges that we face.

      Certainly, I don’t think anyone would say life is easy or smooth, and that we must all work to the point where everything falls perfectly into place. If someone is advertising that then they’re full of it–to put it bluntly.

      But what I DO NOT condone is simply keeping and clinging to your misery and unhappiness because you believe it serves you artistically. I do believe that is unhealthy and is not conducive to creativity at all. If that’s what you mean, then yes we do disagree.

      We do not need to be in pain or to have a miserable life to be creative. That is a myth. But certainly, there is not problem with utilizing the suffering we might experience to help us arrive at a deeper truth and maybe turn that suffering into wisdom, enlightenment, beauty and growth.

      But to hold on to your misery just because you fear you cannot be creative without it is a dangerous path, a slippery slope that I do not recommend, nor condone.

  3. Ollin,

    Thank you so much for this special thought-provoking guest post! Intuition and reason are not balanced in my life. I find I lean more toward reason. This can be a hard habit to break. It seems to provide a certain sense of false security and safety. I like your suggestion to tap into intuition first and then move into reason to find a balance between the two. Surprises, innovation, and excitement are all appealing outcomes in my book and I would love a little more of the Alice in Wonderland flavor in my life!

    I love the example that you use of the horse and the rider. Imagery is a powerful way to help us remember and employ nuggets of wisdom like those you’ve offered to us today. Intuition first! My new motto!

    • Thank you for having me! Your blog is such a place of light in the blogosphere, we need more of them.

      Well, I find that intuition helps us “narrow down” things. Life is so full of possibilities and opportunities and sometimes that makes it almost impossible to know where we should step into next, and of course we might be afraid that the place we step into might be bad for us.

      So I find it easier to listen to intuition to point me in the general direction and then I use my reason to fill in all the specifics. I really believe that’s the way we are supposed to use both reason and intuition.

  4. Hi Ollin,

    I’m a graphic designer and find the same challenge applies in my work. Creating and evolving a design is a series of many many choices — and that interplay of reason and gut instinct is a continual process.

    I love the parallels in how we create our work and how we create our life. Like Sandra, I too tend to be more reason oriented… but I’m learning to follow my intuition! Thank you for the lovely inspiration :~D


    • Hey Sue!

      You know all artists I think have that same process–but so does everyone really. Even the most reason-centric individuals have their intuition, even if they don’t necessarily use it. But just like your reason, your intuition is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Often I’ll practiced by walking in the park, or driving around in my car and just seeing where I end up–with no destination in mind whatsoever.

      It’s interesting the things I end up finding, or being led to–like coffee shops I didn’t know existed, or revelations that were just awaiting for me to discover them.

      Good luck to you!

  5. I’m a fan of blending both for best results.

    I think our intuition gets better with experience, because of our pattern matching abilities. The book Sources of Power, by Gary Klein shares a lot of science behind how intuition works.

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