For my part I researched and came up with an elaborate recipe called "lemon spaghetti." It involved said spaghetti, steamed broccoli, carrots, and red bell peppers, and a lemon-yogurt dressing. And then I came down with a nasty head cold. My instincts told me I was not going to be able to go, let alone make this dish.
Hubby (who was not sick) stepped up. "Can I adapt the recipe, make something easy?" he asked. "That way I can take a dish when I go." We settled on steamed broccoli with sauteed garlic and a splash of lemon juice. Sufficient for the occasion and, it turns out, well received.
I only share this because the incident reminded me of a favorite passage from Anne Lamott's popular book on writing, Bird by Bird, in the chapter called (fittingly), "Broccoli."
She writes: "There's an old Mel Brooks routine...where the psychiatrist tells his patient, 'Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.' And when I first tell my students this, they look at me as if things have clearly begun to deteriorate. But it is as important a concept in writing as it is in real life. It means, of course, that when you don't know what to do, when you don't know whether your character would do this or that, you get quiet and try to hear that still small voice inside. It will tell you what to do..."
In other words, rely on your "intuition."
Intuition (n.)--"the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; a perceptive insight."
Ms. Lamott goes on to say that intuition, however, won't kick in if we quit too soon. You sit down, she says, at say 9:15 a.m. and you only have your rational mind to guide you. Then, if you're having a bad day, you crash and burn within a half hour and give up. But "if you stick it out, the image or situation might come to you that would wedge the door open for a character, after which you would only have to get out of the way. Because then the character could come forward and speak and might say something important...and your plot might suddenly fall into place."
"You get your confidence and intuition back," she adds, "by trusting yourself. You get your intuition back when you make space for it...You might have to coax it (since intuition is "a little shy")...(but) try to calm down, get quiet, breathe, and listen...Train yourself to hear that small inner voice."
Tips then on tapping into our intuition:
Stay in chair.
Stick it out.
And, in conclusion, "Listen to your broccoli. Maybe it will know what to do. Then, if you've worked in good faith for a couple of hours but cannot hear it today, have some lunch."
Ha. Did you know you could learn so much about writing by embracing a hunk of broccoli? How much do you depend on intuition in your writing? Have you consciously tried to train yourself to hear that small inner voice? Have you given your intuition a name?
Next assignment: Name your intuition, and tell us why that name "speaks" to you!