In addition to knowledge of craft and technique, command over grammar and syntax, and all the other tools of their craft, writers must also draw on their instinct of what constitutes good writing. A writer’s instinct is what tells them whether they have overdone or underplayed elements in their work. It tells them when to take risks in their work and when to show restraint. Should they kill a character off? Is this where a flashback would make sense? The sharper a writer’s instinct, the better their judgement in writing, the higher quality their work.
Unfortunately, writer’s instinct it is not something that can be imparted in a class or a workshop. It can, however, be honed and developed over time. Here are some guidelines to sharpen your writing intuition:
1 – Feed your instincts by reading widely and deeply. The more you expose yourself to all types of writing, the more you develop your ability to differentiate between quality and poor writing. Over time, it filters into the way you make judgements about your own work.
2 – Examine your successes and failures. Get a deeper understanding into what gives your writing appeal, what takes away from it. This means paying close attention to feedback. When you internalize why some pieces are better received than others, you are training your writing instinct to reinforce the successful elements and veer away from less appealing practices.
3 – Listen to your hunches. If your gut is telling you that you overdid a sentence or took a metaphor too far, heed it. Oftentimes, we receive messages from our subconscious that we cannot explain because of the speed with which they have been processed and thrown up to us as an amorphous feeling. Don’t dismiss those feelings. Tune into them.
4 – Test your instincts. A good way to trust your intuition is to test it. Keep a log of the number of times you have acted on instinct. Try and learn the pattern of your decisions or actions taken on the basis of it. The more you test your instincts, the more you build confidence in them.
5 – Be objective. We have the naysaying, internal editor vying for space in our heads with the egotistical artist and their talking over each other can be aggravating. Shut them up. Somewhere in a corner, your instinct is whispering. Clear the noise and be present to it. Put aside your criticism, cynicism, fears, emotions and be objective about what your gut is telling you and why.
Until next week!