Intuition and Instruction

They say the writer’s brain was eaten by aliens…

…but really, her perceptions were modified by an increased intensity in practicing her art. She thinks.

The writer in question used to rely primarily on intuition to guide her through her story planning. She felt that this organic approach was channeling a story. Now, the writer in question plots and plans. Her intuition is useful when she writes a first draft and has light bulb moments, and when she revises with the right turn of phrase.

Does this make the writer less artistic? The writer has become capable of approaching writing from two different directions, which certainly makes the writer more versatile. Also, during those times she has difficulty with her intuition, the other tools can help her carry on, and even trick her intuition into working.

This makes the writer who may or may not have alien-nibbled brain reflect on other writing beliefs she has modified in the last year.

1. I am a novelist: The writer remembers a time she was at a party with Tobias Wolfe (where she was scenery with other graduate students), and Wolfe suggested that writers and short story writers were very different types of writers. She believed and still believed it, but now believes that she could produce a short story or two, and finds that it is another gateway she can pass through to gain street cred with editors and agents. Lesson learned: The writer should never close doors.

2. I do best writing alone. The writer wishes she had another set of eyes (she has 4), but finds it essential to have others look at her work. Not just anyone, she figures. Lesson learned: The writer is a lousy proofreader of her own work, and is grateful for her reading posse.

3. All critiques are useful. The writer disbelieves, although she believes in the power of triangulation. If you hear the same thing from many readers, something’s up. However, she realizes that the best critiques may come from those who are succeeding in the venues she wants to publish in, so she can learn those conventions. Lesson learned: Pros are not always right about your work, but they know more about the conventions of publishing than your mom does.

4. Artistic integrity is more important than publishing compromise. The writer believes that everyone has to make this call, even on a case-by-case basis. Lesson learned: Nothing ventured in an editor’s direction, nothing gained.

5. I am far enough along that I don’t want to take another writing workshop. The writer has come to believe there is more to learn, always. Talent can take her far, and so can past education, but new instruction is useful instruction. Lesson learned: The difference between a new dog and an old dog is not age.

6. Schmoozing is uncool. The writer believes that, still. What the writer has always believed is that putting yourself out in the universe as a professional person is the most effective form of schmoozing possible. Lesson learned: No face lift required.

The writer would like to thank the possible aliens for making things a little clearer to her now, and hope she does not have to go off planet to learn lessons, at least until she gets everyone hired at work for fall semester.

Lessons learned might make good fortune cookie inserts at World Fantasy.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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