Listening to Hunches While Writing

By Milli Thornton

In a post called Words for the Picking on the wordsxo blog, Julia Munroe Martin was pondering blueberries and writer’s block. At the end of the post, she asked

How is your writing going? Are your words there for the picking or do you sometimes feel barren of words?

Having used my own methods to cure my once-horrible fear of writing, I don’t suffer from writer’s block very often these days. At first I didn’t think I could relate to the question, but then I remembered a writer’s block incident from that very morning, while I was journaling.

My morning coffee and journaling time is precious to me and I look forward to it greatly, but this particular morning I was drawing a blank re: what to journal about. I decided to quickly think up some kind of technique to jump-start me and just do it. I elected to write about my day of balance the day before, where for once I had not allowed excesses of any kind (to-do list, email, obsessions, distractions, stress) to affect my day.

Meanwhile, a small inner voice that was easy to ignore had already suggested something else. But it seemed too crazy or open-ended so I dismissed it and titled my new page, “More Balance.”

It was nice reflecting on what I’d done to successfully pull off a day of rare balance . . . but after one page of journaling I was done. It was a neatly-contained topic that didn’t spark anything or set me off in another direction.

I thought about that whisper in my mind and acknowledged how I’d ignored it. I was nervous that trying it would lead me nowhere—but I was already nowhere, so what did I have to lose?

I ended up with five pages of journaling! But it wasn’t about the page count; it was about getting lost in what I was writing. Having time go by unnoticed. The last two-thirds of my neglected cappuccino went cold.

The self-guidance I got was unexpected, fresh and invigorating. It helped cement an idea I’d been developing and it gave me loads more material to draw from—material I had previously ruled out under other circumstances, but now I saw the goldmine in it.

As I had commented on Julia’s blog post: “Acknowledging my intuition and acting on it was the key.”

Are you adept at using your intuition when you write? Do you think intuition is different from imagination?

Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing Blog | Fear of Writing Online Course

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of Unleash Your Writing! and the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli also blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers at Writer’s Muse.

8 Responses to Listening to Hunches While Writing
  1. Patti Stafford
    Twitter: pattistafford
    July 13, 2012 | 8:59 AM

    Some days I’m not so sure it’s writer’s block as much as it is too many things to write about. My solution usually ends up to be writing about nothing. I should just start writing about them all and see which one grabs me.

    As for fiction ideas, I started the story prompt site. There’s no sense in hogging all of my ideas when they can be used by others. I have kept a few for myself and have those stored away in my idea binder.

    I’ve also used some of them as writing exercises on a personal blog.

    I do morning journaling, most of the time. The days I skip it I feel something missing. However, I’m not getting any nuggets lately, or I’m not paying enough attention to those little nudges. Maybe I’ve tuned them out. You know me, I can get sidetracked nine kinds of ways from Sunday, so maybe in trying to keep my focus on just a few things, I’ve pushed these little inklings to the side–thinking they are just a distraction.

    Intuition vs. imagination. I guess I’ve never thought about it too deeply. I think people can have intuition but lack imagination. However, I’m not so sure that works in reverse. To have an imagination means you have some kind of intuition, even if it’s only a small amount.

    It’s definitely something worth pondering…or perhaps even journaling about. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been known to rush my morning journal time and I need to stop that.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      July 14, 2012 | 3:31 PM

      Patti, now that the question has occurred to me while writing this post I, too, would like to explore what the difference is between intuition and imagination. I think the answers could be the kind of gold that isn’t found in the usual places people look.

      Best of luck with your oceans of ideas. I have the same dilemma – though I would far rather have that problem than be scratching in dry soil for ideas.

  2. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    July 13, 2012 | 12:32 PM

    I do think intuition is different than imagination, although the difference is subtle. I’m a person that usually works best under structure, so it’s easy for me to fall into that habit and ignore intuition, relying mostly on imagination. But intuition is there for a reason, and I try to be open to it. Especially in the editing stage, I find that it’s so easy to skip what you intuition is nagging you about because you want to get beyond it and finish. Learning to listen to that little voice makes a huge difference.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      July 14, 2012 | 3:28 PM

      Annie, I know what you mean about the fine balance between structure and intuition. I try to combine them as often as possible, but sometimes it’s like a see-saw with a chunky little kid at one end!

      At the moment I’m trying to get myself to take breaks more often to daydream. Just like the way solutions come to me out of nowhere in the shower, I believe my intuition would speak to me even more if I invited it to by creating its ideal conditions.

  3. Julia Munroe Martin
    Twitter: wordsxo
    July 13, 2012 | 3:31 PM

    Thanks for the shoutout, Milli! And I’m so glad that you listened to your intution, what a wonderful story. I am very good about listening to intuition with my non-writing “stuff,” and I’m getting much better about listening as a writer. But sometimes I ignore the “intuition” with positive results. I’ve been going up and down on this particular project (yes, Maggie)… do I really want to write it? Is it a good idea? Through this process, I’ve realized that with my writing, sometimes what feels like intuition is really self-doubt…. and it’s hard for me to tell the difference all the time. Because of that, Maggie lives. I will finish her story.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      July 14, 2012 | 3:25 PM

      Ah, yes, self-doubt masquerading as guidance. I suffered an intense bout of that about a week ago as I was lying in bed, contemplating a decision about my writing. It can sound so convincing at the time. I overcame it with lots and lots of journaling, where the voice of reason (and desire) outwitted the dissenter.

      I’m SO pleased you overcame the doubting questions to continue writing Maggie’s story! If those voices ever try to bug you again, just contact me and I’ll talk you around. You know I believe in Maggie 100%!

  4. Charlotte Rains Dixon
    Twitter: wordstrumpet
    July 14, 2012 | 2:13 PM

    I was recently asked during a teleclass if I believed in writer’s block. I know it is somewhat fashionable to say you don’t believe in it, but I do–because I’ve helped so many writers with it. In one of life’s great ironies, the only true cure for writer’s block is to write. Ah, and there’s the rub. But that’s where exercises like the one your intuition handed you come in. They can really help! Thanks for a great post. By the way, I love your new Aboutme page.

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      July 14, 2012 | 3:21 PM

      Charlotte, I just exchanged comments yesterday on another site with a lady who insists writer’s block doesn’t exist; it’s merely an indulgence by newbie writers. I was getting along with her like a house on fire until she came at me very opinionated with her assertion. I dropped the conversation (don’t care to waste my time arguing the point). Like you, I’ve helped enough writers who were badly affected by their fear of writing–not to mention my own early struggles with it–to not want to give airspace to that cavalier attitude.

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