After I blogged about Trusting Your Writer’s Intuition, a reader emailed me to ask, “How do you know you’re making the right decision?”
I’m often asked my opinion on various writing matters, such as:
Should you write a novel or a screenplay?
Should you write fiction or nonfiction?
Should you traditionally-publish or go indie and do it yourself?
These are all excellent questions, but only you know what’s best for you. Still, it can be hard. The truth about decision making is….
You don’t always know 100% what the right choice is.
I don’t say this to dishearten you or to make you think you can’t do it. Just like writing is delicious, but messy, so is life. However, there are ways to feel more confident in your choices.
Every Writer’s Dream Nightmare
In 2012, I found myself facing this very dilemma. Two literary agents wanted to represent my debut novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven.
Before this happened, I would’ve thought it was wonderful, but it was horrible. My stomach churned in turmoil as I worried, What if I make the wrong choice?
The first offer came on December 22, 2012, when publishing is supposedly hibernating for the holidays. Agent #1 ran his own boutique agency, had years of experience and many sales.
I celebrate Christmas, so this felt like a gift straight from heaven. I let the other five agents with my full manuscript know about my situation and loved emailing this subjectline: I’ve received an offer of representation.
Everyone asked if they could have two weeks to get back to me.
I said no and didn’t feel one bit guilty. They’d all had my manuscript for months. I’d learned from my traditionally-published friends that the way an agent treats you now is the way they’ll treat you later. Again, this applies to all areas of life.
On December 26, 2012, offer #2 arrived…from an agent I never even queried.
She was brand new and worked for one of the five agents with my full manuscript. Her boss already had a full client roster and passed Pennies onto her. Agent #2 was a former NAL/Penguin editor actively building her client list, but she hadn’t sold one book.
Zero, zip, nada.
I researched them both: their sales on Publisher’s Marketplace (which cost a small fee), but the online interviews and articles were free. There was a lot more information about him than her.
Overwhelmed, I set up calls with each. My conversation with agent #1 was polite, professional and encouraging. He wasn’t surprised about the other offer, but still thought we’d make a great team. He had the experience and the connections. He was definitely the way to go.
My call with agent #2 was…magical. She adored my novel, which made me adore her. I could hear both the admiration and the longing in her voice to represent me. Electricity shot through my body as we discussed my story.
My head told me to go with agent #1, but my heart said agent #2.
I didn’t know what to do, so I turned to my critique group for advice.
The most important question they asked was, “Who is more passionate about your work?”
“Agent #2,” I said, “But –”
They stopped me, explaining how that sort of enthusiasm is priceless and how much more excited my voice sounded whenever I talked about #2.
In hindsight, would I still choose her, knowing now she’d leave the biz before we got the chance to sell my book?
Yes. I 100% made the right decision. I learned so much about writing, revising and how to treat others in a creative partnership.
Agent #1 is outstanding agent, but we weren’t a good match. He wanted to change my book into a middle-grade reader, but I’m very much an adult fiction writer. What he was asking me to do would ruin the integrity of my novel.
How to Make the Right Decision
Let me claim up front, what I’m about to explain sounds very New Agey woo-woo, but it works. Pick one of the methods we discussed in Trusting Your Writer’s Intuition. Whether you’re sitting quietly to think, journal, take a contemplative walk, or about to drift off to dreamland, try the following:
1. Ask yourself a question, then listen – You may hear a deluge of answers, but your instinct is often the first response. It’s also calm and quiet. You’ll hear other loud voices, saying, “Yeah, but…” or, “No, do this!” Take a deep breath, then ask yourself the same question. Repeat this until you have more clarity. You may have one solution, or two to three frontrunners.
Also, only ask yourself one question per introspective session. Our intuition isn’t like Google. Making the right decision takes time. Don’t expect multiple responses to multiple subjects.
2. Check your body’s response – Sometimes, your answer may tingle through you, like EUREKA, that’s it! Other times, you might feel ill because your instincts are pulling you too far from your comfort zone. I felt that way starting Mudpie Writing, and even worse in leading my first Creative Monsters Challenge.
3. Expect that rat-bastard fear – Just because you’re doing what rings true for you, doesn’t mean you won’t be terrified. Your insights may feel rock solid at the time, but Fear later hijacks you until you question every powerful insight. It’s part of the creative process, so don’t panic.
4. Don’t follow your intuition alone – Gather facts. Do your homework. Research, then talk to your trusted friends. This will help, but in the end, you must choose what’s best for you.
5. Practice trusting your intuition in small ways – Go to the bookstore or library and wander up and down the aisles. Pick three books you haven’t heard of, but sound compelling. Select one to read and see how you like it. Try this at what to order at a restaurant, which movie to watch. Play with it and have fun to build your instincts for bigger moments.
Will Your Intuition Always be Right?
No, and that’s okay. You’ll learn something valuable in the process.
Almost twenty years ago, a voice woke me from a dream and told me to write a book. That became my first novel, Truth Circle.
It never sold. Were my instincts wrong?
Not at all. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that first book. Writing is like building blocks, one enhances the other.
There are no wasted words. Just practice.
What do you think about your decision-making process?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.
I participated in the Creative Monster Challenge had a great time and learned a lot. Thank you!
Marcy Mason McKay
You’re a sweetheart, Doris. I’m so glad you participated in the Challenge and found it useful. That means the WORLD to me.
Intuition is a spiritual thing. You can’t put a hunk of it on the table and examine it. We have a problem trying to describe spiritual things using material terms. Communication from the material to the spiritual and back again is a perfect example of the angst you are describing.So what’s a person to do?
Let’s look at woman’s intuition. Women use it all the time, with great success. Men have the same capacity, but macho gets in the way and intuition gets ignored.
As a writer, you are closer to intuition than someone not working in the arts.
So I say, “use it!”
What your heart tells you will get you closer to the truth than your head. Ever notice when writing that something comes from the head, and then the editor from deep within kicks in and you know you’d better change things?
The more you rely on intuition, the better it becomes. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Marcy Mason McKay
Beautifully said, Pete! Clearly, you’re quite adept at using your intuition. I loved everything you shared and appreciate your comment. 🙂
Hi Marcy! Decision-making … hmmm … I feel my insides get tense just thinking about it. I have a tendency to suffer from analysis paralysis, so I can do endless research before starting or finishing anything, all in the name of that ever-elusive perfect decision. It served me well when I was an Analyst for a living. LOL
Now, after many years of left-brain overload, I’ve only just revived my “better half”. It’s been a real challenge for me to learn to trust my right-brain, intuitive self again.
A lot of it comes down to a willingness to trust yourself and your own resilience. One makes the other stronger. For example, I do ‘A’ because I trust myself. I later learn it was a mistake and I should’ve done ‘B’. I learn from it, get up and dust myself off, and keep going. When ‘C’ comes along, I remember what I learned and how well I handled my mistake. I’m not only more knowledgeable now, which gives me more confidence in my decisions, but I also know I can recover and learn.
Trust grows in the doing and it just keeps getting better. 🙂
Marcy Mason McKay
Awesome, awesome, awesome, T.O. You nailed this. Perfectionism pushed back me launching Mudpie Writing by about 6 months. In hindsight, that doesn’t seem long, but those 180+ days of torturing myself we no fun.
I try to remember now that imperfect action is better than no action at all.
Thanks for your two cents!
Oh, do I ever know what those six months felt like! I did the same and sometimes, in my lower moments, I mentally kick myself because I could be so much further ahead by now if I hadn’t paralyzed myself. But even that’s not a waste of time, really. Look what we learned!
Marcy Mason McKay
So, true. We’re all doing the best we can. I just wish I would extend as much grace to MYSELF as I do to others. Live and learn…
T.O. – ditto most of this for me, but thanks in part to the Creative Monster Challenge, I’ve put my short story and novel writing to the top of my daily priority list and I’m making incredible progress and building my confidence as well!
And I’ve also drafted 3 blogs I’ll need to polish before posting on my website!
Marcy Mason McKay
Congrats, Jack. You’re moving out of procrastination into a DYNAMO!
Marcy Mason McKay
Love it, Jack. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.
It’s great to have a community to keep the communication going – always helps to have a support group to suffer our woes and celebrate our small victories!
Marcy Mason McKay
So true, Jack. We write alone, but we learn from each other.
WOOHOOO – splendid, Marcy!!! #HUGSSS
I have too many thoughts colliding in my head right now, thanks to poor sleep and the stress of finishing two major assignments by Tuesday afternoon! So please apologize if my comment isn’t very cohesive! 😛 hehe
Anyway, aaah..I cannot live without my ‘intuition’! Intuition or (my ever burgeoning gut instincts(!) ) has gotten a bad rap because not every ‘intuitive’ decision is successful. But, honestly, is every ‘rational’ decision successful?
Nothing in life is guaranteed except death 😛 But I’d rather spend whatever time I have on this bountiful planet doing what FEELS right to me instead of just doing what MUST be done because it seems like the more prudent choice!
My intuition has been wrong a zillion times, and that’s okay. In fact, I often KNOW whether my decision is wrong a split second after making it…my intuition sends me a ‘depressing’ signal almost instantly, like it’s saying, “Hey! You didn’t really listen to me. You were just doing what everyone wants you to do or conveniently taking the easy route”
However, intuition can often be confused with ‘impulsiveness’. For instance, I have packed about 10 pounds in the last six months because of no workouts and poor time management. And that ice-cream from my favorite Frozen Yogurt place might SEEM fantastic to ameliorate my angst and I might splurge on a big cup – ironically, this ‘impulse only gets me further away from my goals!
So I do believe that learning to differentiate between ‘intuition’ and ‘impulse’ is paramount to making the ‘right’ calls at least 50% of the time (hey, those are fabulous odds!)
I do almost everything based on the signals sent to me by my gut – chose my husband, shop for clothes, pick travel destinations…lol…I just look around and whatever ‘tugs’ at my heart goes into my ‘To Do or To Eat or To Go’ list 😀
One of my friends, who was embroiled in a difficult relationship, once asked me how I chose my husband: “How did you KNOW that HE was the one?”
Pat came my response: “I didn’t! hehe I just went with my guts. He and I can break up any time. For now, however, my intuition still loves him!” – lol
Life is unpredictable…which is uber-scary, but also uber-exciting because unpredictability lends its beautifully to imagination – and, consequently, to writing! 😀
All that said, no one can sustain on intuition alone because although this under-rated ‘trait’ of humans can be used to make a decision, you still need your brains and the ‘analytical’ side of your mind to complete your actions and reach your goals – they work beautiful together. Let’s cherish this #FabulousDuo 😉
Sorry for my rambling #HUGSSS
LOVEEED all your TIPS for enhancing your closeness with your intuition…Muaah
Marcy Mason McKay
Thanks, Kitto. Sometimes our intuition can be called impulsiveness if we respond too quickly. My instincts may tell go with ABC right away, but I try to really slow down…journal about it…research…talk to my trusted friends so that I don’t feel like it’s a knee-jerk reaction.
Thanks so much for stopping by MPW. I appreciate you!
I love this! Truly intuition is an important factor that I only just began exploring.
Thank you ❤️
Marcy Mason McKay
Oh, Lujain! I’m so glad you read and commented on this post! Because we’ve gotten to know each other, I can tell you are VERY INTUITIVE. You just haven connected to that inner power yet, which makes sense because your attention is so divided with young children.
It’s like an unused muscle. It grows stronger the more you use it. I can’t wait to hear how your life changes as you become more intentional in trusting your gut instincts!