Following Your Gut

Here’s what I’ve learned about following your gut–that shit ain’t easy. See fear and laziness, they’re a pretty good team. I’ve been pretty stagnant as of late. I realized that I can’t really be productive outside of a routine and when I’m forced outside of my routine by things beyond my control, I don’ bounce back very easily either. I forced my way through a copy edit of book 4–the first of a series I’ve been trying to flesh out since April–but even when I tried to tell myself that it was in a good place or that it was almost finished, there was this other nagging voice keeping me up at night reminding me of the truth. That it’s not.

Not only is it not close to being finished but it’s not even heading in the right direction and it hasn’t been for a long time. See I’ve always known it’s true potential and I’ve always known that it would never reach that full potential unless I started over from scratch. I tried a couple of times but even then I was still trying to force the story in the direction I wanted it to go–the easier direction–rather than the direction it was meant to go in. Because it felt like too much work. Because I was afraid I’d never be able to get it there. Because I didn’t believe I was emotionally capable of starting fresh.

But living with a story that I knew just wasn’t right, it’s been miserable. I’ve been miserable. And stubborn and lazy and weak and a lot of other things all because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if I start over my gut will lead me astray again. I’m afraid that I’ll dig myself into another hole and not be able to see a way out. I’m afraid to listen to that voice inside because what if it’s wrong? What if I start over and I still fail?

I needed something more than just a feeling. I needed proof that I could turn this story into something great. I needed a plot and I needed it yesterday. This block has been keeping me from working on anything else, although I’ve been tempted. But I hate leaving things unfinished and knew I wouldn’t be able to move on emotionally from this story until it’s complete. So I did the most obvious thing I could do–ignored the computer all day while I cleaned my apartment. That was the first sign that I was in turmoil. The second? I went and worked out. I hate working out. But then something miraculous happened.

I took a shower. Not that I don’t usually shower but showering is where I do most of my best thinking since there’s really nothing else to do. So there I was, untangling my hair and debating whether or not I was going to shave my legs and trying desperately to keep avoiding my thoughts like I had been that morning, and then it hit me. My story. All of it. It’s entire identity just filled me to the brim and I couldn’t get out of the shower fast enough. I’m not sure why now and not six months ago but suddenly I’m more inspired than I have been in a long time and I can’t tell you how good that feels.

Unfortunately the first draft of book 4 is currently out to two alpha readers, and while I still can’t wait to get their feedback, they’re essentially reading something that will never see the light of day. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Because heading in the wrong direction is even worse than heading in no direction at all. And when you try to force an identity or an agenda on a work of art just for the sake of being finished, well that’s not fair to your readers or to yourself.

 

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10 thoughts on “Following Your Gut

  1. I’m sure I’ve read that we have brain cells in our gut… so following it makes a lot more sense than you might think 😉

  2. Oh man, I’ve been experiencing practically the exact same thing, lately. When something just doesn’t *feel* right, you know it. For me, I’ve been trying to figure out what the story I’m writing REALLY wants to be — and I think I’ve finally found it. 🙂

    • Yes! Congrats! It’s an awesome feeling finding out a novel’s true identity but the work ahead (especially when you’ve already worked an MS up to its 3rd draft) can be daunting. Instead of facing facts, I tried to run and hide. But that feeling still gnawed at me and if I want it to go away I’m going to have to stop being afraid and start getting back to work!

  3. Loved this post! I’ve been having the SAME fears and doubts about my own work, which is the first book in a series I’m trying to develop, as well. I’m at 35k words and I’ve started getting that icky “Does this still work as a story?” feeling, and I might have to start from scratch, which is terrifying just like you mentioned.

    So glad you got the clarity you needed – shower epiphanies are the BEST epiphanies! 😀

    • I’d always heard about other authors scrapping their work or having to re-write things from scratch and I always thought it was from a lack of planning or experience (Trust me, I know how dumb this sounds now.) But what I didn’t realize is that regardless of the type of writer you are, stories evolve. And sometimes they don’t just evolve but they demand to be re-born. Having my work back at the infancy stage is tough but I just have to keep reminding myself that if I’ve finished before I can always do it again and this time the final product will be much stronger!

  4. Aubrey Cann says:

    Yay for breakthroughs in showers! I’m really hoping I have a moment like that soon. I reeeeally need it.

    • I was totally at my breaking point, ready to climb back into my bed for a week straight. I really wasn’t sure if I’d ever get the clarity I needed but then there I was in the shower and I couldn’t stop asking myself–what if? I’m pretty sure I was in there for a good 45 minutes, mumbling that question to myself until finally little bits and pieces started to make sense. What I’ve realized now is that I probably would have reached that clarity much sooner had I just been brave enough to ask myself that one question.

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