Listening to Your Gut

Listening to Your Gut 0

As I get closer to starting my first novel (correction: the first novel that I WILL finish) I’ve been going back through my notes as well as comments from a friend, and fellow writer, Steve Scearce – refining the outline, filling in character details, jotting down snippets of details or dialog.

Steve is about a month ahead of me, also working on his first novel and making great progress. He has shared his synopsis along the way, and I’ve read several chapters. We chat fairly often about both of our efforts, and during one recent phone call I was struck with the idea on this entry – listening to your instincts (or guts) and knowing when to stick with them.

With any creative process, most of the journey is filled with decisions that could go any which way. You, as the creator, are in control of these decisions, but sometimes you need a sounding board – perhaps to reinforce your choices, or to help think through the options. Getting this kind of input can be extremely helpful, especially when someone really gets what you’re trying to do and offers a few overlooked gems.

Occasionally, though, the feedback just doesn’t click – it runs counter to the intent of your story, it creates additional problems to solve, or it seems out of character for your protagonist to do something. Perhaps you can’t quite place why it does not resonate with you. There is something there you need to respect. Hopefully you can verbalize why something doesn’t work – it’s your story, and you should be intimately familiar with your characters, what they would and would not do, and what needs to happen within the story. Even if it’s not so clear, listen to that inner voice – it’s no doubt where the story originated in the first place.

Be sensitive, though, to why the feedback is being given, how it doesn’t work within the context of your piece, and how your work could be lacking something that caused the input in the first place. Even if the suggestions do not fit, they could reveal areas that do need additional attention.

As the person giving this advice, you should keep in mind that you are not the creator, and while your input could be invaluable, what you are offering is only an opinion, and it’s up to the creator to make the decisions. Look to see what clicks when providing feedback, and don’t keep pushing something that obviously isn’t taken. If the idea is so good, use it yourself in something else. Don’t be disappointed in someone not taking your suggestions, and keep trying to help; maybe you will provide the nugget that clinches the ending, or reveals the needed twist.

Now, if you continue to receive consistent feedback from several sources, you may need to re-evaluate what you’re trying to. Instincts are not always right. Take some time away from the piece, weigh the feedback, and then look again with fresh eyes. Perhaps people are missing the genius in your work – and perhaps you’re good at self-delusion.

What does your gut tell you about that?

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