Intuitive writing and writing into the dark
Posted On July 19, 2020
When we learn creative writing in school, this is typically the method we learn:
Come up with a topic | create an outline with headings and subheadings | Research topic | Write first (crappy) draft | Read what you’ve written | Rewrite | Rewrite | Rewrite | Edit | Rewrite | Proofread | Edit some more.
Finally, if you’re lucky, your writing might pass the test of being handed do an external proofreader. Give it to them and wait for feedback.
After receiving feedback, edit according to feedback.
Hope that it will be good enough for publishing.
This is a little ranting of course, but the steps we take in order to stay safe and secure and not be criticized are just ridiculous if you think about it.
This traditional method is safe and secure for sure, but the safety and certainty that you get when using a traditional writing method like this to produce something creative is at the cost of something else. Something far more valuable, namely your creativity. Counter productive, right?
All academic work is written this way. No place for creativity there.
Writing into the dark
A while ago I read Dean Wesley Smith’s book “Writing into the Dark”, an intuitive writing method that acknowledges your intuitive and creative voice instead of your logic and reason. This book differed a lot from other books I’ve read in the topic of writing and it opened my eyes and gave me some hope. Writing into the dark advocates an alternative method of writing which is contrary to the method we learned in school. When you’re writing into the dark, you enter the landscape of uncertainty and adventure.
Driving in the dark
Imagine that you are driving int the dark. The car’s spotlights can only reach a short distance ahead of you. After that, you’re not sure what to expect. But of course, as your car moves, so do the lights. So the further you drive down the road, the more of the road is temporarily illuminated by the spotlights, exposing just enough for you to see what’s going on just ahead of you. This is writing into the dark. You know that the road will be there. you trust it. You also trust your car to take you from A to B. But you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen along the ride.
But it’s also a bit scary. Something unexpected, like a deer, might jump in front of the car so you sharpen your senses. And using this method you don’t get a map either. You have to trust your instincts and your “gut feeling”.
This is where intuition comes into place. If you have been practicing your intuitive sense, your other senses will sharpen as well. And isn’t the uncertainty the charm about the journey?
The Writing into the dark method
The writing into the dark method goes as follows, and if you are a writer or a blogger using a traditional method of outlining and rewriting, I highly encourage you to try this for a while and see how you feel about it.
- First of all: Don’t outline! Trust the process. Trust that you know what you need to write.
- Start with a title.
- Write a sentence.
- Write the next sentence.
- And the next.
- And so on, until you reach the last sentence.
Sounds like magic, doesn’t it? At first, I thought it sounded a bit stupid to be honest. But when I tried it myself, I must confess that it opens up so much potential for your creative mind to play and have fun.
There are a few elements to add to the method as well:
- Have a notepad on the side. After each session or chapter, write what you learned about your story. This is not an outline per se, but like an index to help you see things at a glance without reading your whole script.
- You don’t write a second draft using this method, you edit as you go. The first draft is the only one. BUT: You do get to edit, add, remove stuff IF you do it the exact moment that your creative/ intuitive voice gave you that nudge and you think of it. It’s your creative voice telling you that something is missing, you have to remove irrelevant information etc.
- Don’t be afraid to write something that you won’t be using later. See it as valuable writing practice and delete it from your script. Just as a pianist needs to practice to become a master, so do you.
- Bare in mind that “the next sentence” in the method doesn’t have to be the one your reader is going to read. If you come to think of something that you need to add in an earlier part of the script, immediately jump to that part and change it. This change is also a “next sentence”.
Explore the possibilities of your story
Don’t be afraid to explore your writing. It’s never a waste of time, even if you don’t use all the words you’ve written.
In the car metaphor, it is the equivalent of heading up to a fork in the road. You don’t know which way to go, and either one is going to give you an experience. Worst case scenario: you have to go back and take another way. So, you’ve explored a path you didn’t want to go. Now you know. You’ve practiced driving along that particular path and it wasn’t for you. Sometimes when you’re at a buffet you taste food that you don’t like. Good. Now you know.
The more you practice letting your intuition have the control and get out of the way yourself, the less errors will occur as you practice.
Sometimes you might see a hitchhiker along the way. It’s very likely that this hitchhiker is your critical voice trying to sneak in and ride along with you. Don’t let it in, because it will try to get you to change directions and go back home where it’s safe and secure.
One very specific feature of this writing method is that you DON’T invite your critical voice. (You know the voice inside your head that says “you suck”) Keep in mind that its job is to protect you from anything that it thinks is dangerous, i.e. criticism, and the only way it knows to do this is to try to stop you from doing anything that it thinks can potentially harm you, based your earlier experiences.
Think of it as a paranoid guardian dog. It thinks everything is dangerous and wants to protect you. Pretty cute, actually. It has an important job protecting you from actually getting hurt or killed, but this isn’t the place for it to shine. Writing into the dark is the place for your creative inner voice to sing and shine. Follow it wherever it wants to lead you, and trust the process.
As you know, intuition is that whispering voice inside of you that always leads you towards the right place. You could say that your creative voice and your intuition is the same thing. So how to you practice hearing it? the funny thing about writing using your intuition is that you only have to trust it.
Your intuition is the one who has the roadmap. Be courageous and let it drive the car while you observe what happens from the back seat and take notes. And fasten your seatbelt because it’s going to be a hell of a ride.
Related article: How the morning pages changed my life