There is a shortcut to this writing thing. A shortcut to every question about anything in your life is available to you right this minute.
It’s unconventional, but it is an invaluable tool.
Consult your gut.
You can use whatever word you want – gut, spirit, higher self, heart, whatever. I don’t care what language you use to describe this consultation. The important part is that you do it.
I used to be really good at this. I was equally good at ignoring my gut, because I have an amazing iron will (ask me sometime about dragging several full-grown women 100 feet at a jog because they were trying to make me do something I didn’t want). I had a nearly magical ability to get whatever I wanted – to come out on top of any situation or circumstance.
My family used to say, “Alexis is the Platinum Child because she can step in shit, and say ‘Where’s the pony?’ And when she falls in a pile of shit, she comes out smelling like roses!”
This is an exaggeration, but you get the point. I would follow my gut, and come out winning on the other side. I also tended to go wherever the wind blew me. I could give a good story for why I did what I did, but in the middle of it, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just feeling things. Also, when the feeling got too much, I would hide away, pursuing something else, pretending this was the right place for me.
My platinum title came to an abrupt halt in 2008 when I got married and moved to Phoenix (for more about that, pick up a copy of Thrive). I joined the world of “adults” and felt like I had to do and be a certain way. I started ignoring my gut, allowing other forces, people, and places to dictate what I did with my life.
But, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you – I got it back.
Before I did this “magic” through gut consultation subconsciously. I didn’t know I was doing it. I didn’t know how I did what I did, only that things happened a certain way for me. So when I started writing, I was out of the habit of gut consultation, and therefore, made quite a few…missteps.
In the last year and a half, things have changed. I pursued projects that I never would have done even four years ago. And they’re doing things my other projects haven’t done. I stopped trying to be someone I’m not and instead embraced who I am, both as a human being and a writer.
It has been a bit of a process, and I don’t know exactly where it will lead, but I know, in my gut, this is the only path forward.
So now that I’ve given you a little background, maybe you’re wondering how a person actively consults their gut. The truth is, there are plenty of ways to do this. Some people like muscle tests. Other people might do a full guided meditation. I’m going to share my quick and easy way to consult the gut.
Take a couple deep breaths and center yourself. Let everything fall away. Close your eyes if you need to.
Imagine yourself sinking into your gut, focusing on that place in your body that tenses when you feel bad, and flutters when you feel good.
Ask a simple yes or no question – think 20 Questions style. Example: Should I submit a piece to X zine? Don’t ask questions like ‘I should do X, shouldn’t I?’ because this adds more of your mind into the equation. This is a feeling exercise – not thinking.
Pay attention to your reaction. You’ll have a feeling in your gut – if your gut churns or constricts, it’s a ‘no.’ An expansive loose feeling is a ‘yes.’
The thing about the gut consult is it works better the more you use it. So the more often you check in with your gut, the better and clearer the answers will be. You may get to a point where you will recognize answers on the fly.
The key to this working consistently is not to ignore it. You really need to pay attention to the times when you have a strong reaction to the things around you. If a person or situation is giving you that nasty constricted feeling, take a step back and figure out why you’re having this reaction. This could make the difference between saying yes to a predatory publisher or rejecting a great agent.
I can honestly say when I listen to my gut, good things happen consistently. When I ignore my gut, there’s no telling how things will turn out. So please, save yourself heartbreak and a ton of stress – check in with your gut. You’ll be glad you did.
Let me know any stories or times when you followed your gut (or didn’t!) and what happened in the comments below!
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