Finding the way forward
I want to try to describe how it is that I write.
I compose all day in my head, when I’m alone. A topic pops into my head, or a memory, and my brain turns into a computer. Just give me a prompt and my brain is racing to artfully structure flowing sentences into an essay. All inside my head.
. . . they all reeled out of me, those words I’d imbibed, in one continuous ribbon.
—Katherine May, The Electricity of Every Living Thing
Often, more than one topic is fighting for airtime. So, usually before I come to a reasonable conclusion, my brain moves on to the next topic. Because I get mild anxiety if I don’t allow myself to think all the things I’m trying to think.
When my thoughts become too overwhelming to function or sleep (it happens both day and night), I pull out the closest writing tools and do a brain dump. The usual location is the Notes app on my phone.
To date, there are 125 notes in a folder called “essay fragments.” And that’s out of 855 total notes that actually got properly filed. There are 121 blog post drafts on my WordPress account. And around 100 drafts on my Scrivener app. That’s not counting physical notes written on paper either.
The intention is always that I just get the words out of my head into a manic brain dump rough draft and then have a focused sit down time to edit these drafts and share them online.
This is the part that trips me up (as proven by the pitiful amount of published posts on my website), and it’s led to a lot of negative thinking over the years.
Clearly, I can write. I write three pages of journaling every day. I wrote my book draft for The Simple Path of Journaling in around two months (from August 2022 to October 2022). And then of course the million and a half essay/blog rough drafts I’m drowning in.
And I know how to edit. I look at my finished essays on my website, and honestly I really enjoy reading them.
If I was just sticking with essay and blog type writing, I doubt I would have figured out the issue I was having. But when I got really determined that I was going to finish this book and publish it, the stakes got a lot higher and the issues ran deeper.
After a lot of crying and journaling and asking God/myself/the void for help, I had a breakthrough and finally learned about a method of writing that fits my brain so much better.
It’s called intuitive writing. I don’t really know much about it yet, but I’m going to write about the little bit that I do understand.
Intuitive writing is based off of feminine energy, which is very opposite to most mainstream writing practices that are based off masculine energy. Masculine energy writing includes lots of plotting, outlines, structure, word counts, and routines.
Feminine energy writing is a lot harder to grasp, because it involves more of the subconscious mind and trusting yourself. It’s sort of a bit more like stream of consciousness writing. But you just start with a blank page and see what happens. It’s kind of a scary approach. You have to trust yourself not to get lost. And you have to be okay with being lost anyway, because that’s how you find yourself and your words.
I began to lean more into structure and order, but Sheree was an artist . . . she was much more fluid, intuitive, and less structured.
—Will Smith, Will
There are two things I’ve learned about intuitive writing that I’m trying to put into practice now.
The first is that I need to make sure I’m completely done writing something before I start to edit it. This is because writing and editing are two different sides of the brain. Editing requires the use of judgment and critique, whereas writing is very open and vulnerable. It can be quite detrimental to be switching back and forth between the two.
This is how I kind of fucked myself up while writing my book. I started working on a proper outline and section titles and page numbers before I was even done writing it. That led to me feeling boxed in by the structure I’d employed, so my writer side was kind of throwing a fit and refusing to work. And I also felt paralyzed to continue writing, because I would compare my freshly written sentences to the already edited ones and think myself a terribly shitty writer.
The second thing I’ve learned about intuitive writing is that I need to just work on one writing piece at a time. One piece within each different type of writing I’m doing, I should say. So I can still work on my book, work on my newsletter, do my journaling. But I’m just focused on one blog post at a time, rather than the chaotic pile of drafts demanding my attention.
(I’m going to write in a future post about what I’ve decided to do with all my rough drafts and how I’m going to capture new ideas going forward, because collecting rough drafts is definitely not the right process for me.)
I tried it out both things I learned with this post. I did my initial manic brain dump and then stopped when I felt like I said everything that was on my mind. The next few days I was tempted to start new drafts, but I made myself just look at this one, which led me to more brain dumps on this topic. I didn’t allow myself to start editing until I felt totally drained of the words in my head and ready to polish what I’d written.
It was hard at first, to not write drafts on new ideas, to continue to add this this draft over and over until it felt finished, before I started cleaning it up. But it started feeling natural and good too. And look, I published it!!
Part of this process is about learning to trust my intuition. Learning to trust my own mind. Learning to trust the way I work.
The job of a writer, he says, is simple: You write what’s in your head.
—Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
I’ll have much more to say on this topic as I implement more of intuitive writing into my life. But this breakthrough shows why I value personal growth and introspection so much. It’s so helpful to understand and trust yourself, because there are such vastly different ways to operate in the world. I would have blindly struggled with the same problems over and over if I hadn’t allowed myself the journey of figuring out who I am. Collecting piles of rough drafts, never finishing anything, feeling like shit during the editing process.
A sensitive introverted neurodivergent creative individual like myself and many others are never going to thrive by following the rules and structure dictated by rigid masculine energy. Which is what most of society is built off and expects from others.
But the good news is that feminine energy exists just as strongly and equally in this world.. There is a way forward that will feel perfect for each person’s energy. It just requires trust and an open, insightful mind.