Monday, June 15, 2009

Using the Six Senses to Write Efficiently: Intuition

Last week we discussed setting. Not the fictitious setting we make up for our books, no, we talked about where we write. It got me to thinking about how our surroundings affect us. What are we writers always being told to add to a scene? Sensory details. Can utilizing sensory details in our work space make us better writers?

And if cultivating the five senses can improve our writing, what about the debatable sixth sense?

Do you even believe in a sixth sense? Intuition--the elusive quality we can't put our finger on. It seems to lead us in the right direction. It alerts us to something we couldn't possibly know by rational means. Is it possible to nourish our sixth sense in our writing surroundings?

This is where rituals come in. No, I'm not going to recommend any sort of blood sacrifice! I'm talking about gentle rituals--rituals you make up to fit your needs. Do you have a routine you perform before you write? Does it enhance the direction your writing takes?

I've had different rituals over the years. Sometimes I have none, usually because I become super busy and let my calming routine slip just when I need it the most (kind of like the ol' exercise routine). A week or two will pass and a sense of careening out of control will hit me. It's my trigger to slow down and resume my predetermined list of steps to ground me in the moment.

My current ritual? I brew a pot of coffee before I sit down to work. When I'm ready to write, I light the candle on my desk. The hiss of the match, the tendril of smoke wafting in the air, and the crackle of the wick as it catches flame alert me it's time to work.

I used to be in the habit of saying a quick meditation: "God is with me. God is helping me. God is guiding me." Lately, I've let that one slip. Why? Who knows! Maybe I have a false sense of being in control? Maybe I'm in such a rush to get something done, I'm forgetting what's important? Whatever the reason, I'm bringing it back. It's always been such a comfort to me.

That's it. Coffee. Candle. Quick meditation reminding me God is in control.

But how does this relate to intuition?

Maybe it doesn't? I know my writing flows when I take a minute to ground myself. I feel less harried. Ideas pop into my mind. Directions I hadn't thought to take suddenly become crystal clear. And I'm going to let you in on my little secret: I believe intuition is the Holy Spirit guiding me.

If you have a ritual you perform before you write, I want to hear about it!

If you don't, why don't you try one? See if it cultivates your fertile imagination. I don't think it could hurt!

Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss using the gift of sight to enhance our writing.


  1. Sadly, I have no ritual except check e-mail then play one game of computer Mahjong. THEN I write. LOL!

  2. I don't have a ritual, but your post made me want to start one. I love yours! I loved how you described the candle, too. Made me want to write and it's not even my ritual! Great post, Jill!

  3. Good morning!

    Jennifer: It sounds like a ritual to me! E-mail. Check. Mahjong. Check. Write away...

    Katie: Let me know if you start one--I want details!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I think I write better when I am sitting cross-legged, but I don't think that's a ritual. I get the kids settled for nap/quiet time and have at my stories. I love when I get a feel for all the senses at the same time, including the power of the Spirit...makes for some powerful writing.
    ~ Wendy

  5. My ritual has become escaping to Caribou Coffee and breathing in the fantastic aroma. I order a large Earl Grey (another amazing aroma) and get to work.

    I believe in intuition. And I agree that it is often the Holy Spirit guiding.

    I look forward to Wednesday's post. :)

  6. I read a devotion or two, then a chapter from the bible, then I pray before I begin writing. Whenever I miss doing these three steps, my writing goes down hill fast.

    And I really do like using that sixth sense in my writing, because it is so prevalent in real life. Some characters, like real people, are more sensitive to intuition, so I'm careful to keep that in mind while writing and use it to characterize.

    I like your candle ritual. Might have to add that to mine.

  7. Nice post! My ritual for writing (and living in general) includes the perpetual coffee pot and a quick prayer for guidance.

    I think all six of the senses are important elements in fiction because they are so much a part of our daily life.

  8. Hi Jill,

    Rituals do seem to ease us into that zone, helping us to switch gears as we begin to write. I do start my writing with a coffee beside me, and love your candle idea as well. I clicked over today from Jody's blog, and read her link to your Web Site advice. So informative, a great resource as I've been considering creating a web site recently. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Wendy: You're comfortable writing cross-legged? Amazing! Do you do yoga? Enquiring minds want to know.

    Erica: You inspired me to purchase a tin of Earl Grey last week. I love the spiciness--delicious!

    Eileen: You and me both! I need to ground myself. Do you have a specific devotion book?

    Angie: Coffee!! Yum!! Do the experts count 1 cup as 8 oz? Or is my ginormous mug considered one cup? In that case, I only had 2 cups of coffee this morning.

    Joanne: Welcome! I'm glad the website stuff helps. I'll be putting up a basic how-to design a website guide sometime this summer.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  10. I'm glad you clairified the blood ritual point - lol!

    I guess my only rituals include:


    reviewing last few pages

    reviewing word journals and 'war wall' quotes.


  11. My ritual is: I'm going to the computer, get nervous. I'm not nervous about writing. That's the fun part. I'm nervous about the way out there bloggy things I don't understand. So, I also pray for the process as well as for God to direct what I write.

  12. Ritual? Hmmm...Write, interruption from kid #1. Write, interruption from kid #2. Write, interruption from the dog. Write, interruption from kid #1 again. ooops!

    Let's see. My real ritual? Put on my headphones, turn on Pandora, block out noise, and drink coffee (lots of it!).

  13. I go into my chair in the bedroom--put my feet up--open the blinds to see my backyard view and then clear my mind.

  14. Tess: The daily "battle" with "war wall" quotes! Love it!

    Nancy: Yes, the process. It's not just the words--there's so much more, isn't there?

    Jody: I feel your pain. The never-ending interruptions. Feel like screaming yet?

    Terri: Your view sounds lovely. Don't you love green grass, mature trees, and blue sky? Ahh....

    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Hmm. my rituals vary...does that make them less ritualistic? haha. Anyway, music ALWAYS helps. I listen while I write sometimes, sometimes just a song or two while I'm finishing up a chore BEFORE I settle down with my laptop. Coffee is always a must. On other days, I write best after a work out. So, depending on the day, my rituals differ.

  16. Amber J: Different days, different moods, different rituals. I like the idea of listening to a specific song or two to center yourself before writing. Great idea!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  17. my main ritual is putting down my toddler for nap time or night-night! ha! i do use a particular lap board when i'm writing to save my wrist from any discomfort and my lap from the heat of the computer. but that's not really a ritual, i don't guess. i'm with katie...reading yours made me want to get one. :)

  18. I like ritual, but I'm not sure I have one at the moment. I do believe in intuition and the Holy Spirit guiding us.

  19. Interesting. :) I'd never thought of this before. The only thing I do is try to write during naptime or after bedtime. I can't write well if there's a lot of noise. :D

  20. Jeannie: A deep breath can be a ritual when you're chasing a toddler! Who has time for much else in those years?

    Kara: Me too :)

    Danyelle: I can't write well with noise. I'm spazzy about sounds...wait for my post on using the sense of sound. My husband is a saint for living with me!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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