Accessing Intuition

Swhite coverI recently wrote a review of Someone to Talk To,  Samantha M. White’s compelling memoir of her long process of building a life of serenity, love and happiness after falling into a pit despair when her young daughter died in a fatal car crash after a string of traumatic events. Since writing the review, Samantha and I have exchanged a number of emails about writing and memoir, and I’m delighted that she agreed to share the following thoughts as a guest post.

My rule for intuitive writing: While writing, don’t edit. Editing is the job of the brain; writing is the job of the heart. The heart knows no rules. Intuitive writing is what comes from the heart.

I believe the voice of my intuition has always been there, that we are probably all born with it. Parents, teachers, friends, and the media, in the process of “civilizing” us, overlay it with “rules” – lots of “don’ts” (”Don’t waste paper, don’t talk about others, don’t talk about sex,”) “always” (“Always stand up straight, always start a sentence with a noun phrase, always keep your prepositional phrases short,”) “never” (“Never wear white after Labor Day, never use an exclamation point at the end of a complete sentence”) and “shoulds” (A chapter should have a structure, contain action, a lady shouldn’t wear trousers in public,” etc.). I learned when I was still a teen-ager that cocktails were before dinner drinks, cordials were served after the meal. Red wine went with meat, white wines with chicken and fish. Those rules were as important as using the correct fork at the banquet table and sticking to the correct subjects in my speech and my writing. It was all part of the same very long list of Rights and Wrongs.

The rules were good to know, in order to not appear clumsy, gauche, or ignorant. But rules can pile up and eventually become so numerous that they hold the door to our intuition shut by their sheer weight. They become a barrier between us and our intuition, which is the free expression of our inner voice, our heart voice.

So accessing intuition, for me, was about judiciously discarding rules. In violation of what I had been taught, I wrote in incomplete sentences and about forbidden topics, and revealed my true self, weaknesses and strengths alike.

Does that suggest we would have better access to our intuition if we were not conscientiously “civilized” by our elders? Probably. But intuition without thought wouldn’t make for skill. I needed to know the rules AND to give myself permission to break them, first knowing, in every case, the reason why I was doing it, and measuring whether my action would cause anyone harm, and if it supported or violated my ethics and purpose.

So I guess my take on intuition is: know the rules of good writing, and then consciously put them aside and write from the heart. Write the initial drafts with confidence that they will never be seen by the reading public. Journal writing is especially valuable practice for accessing intuition, especially when we finally learn to trust that no one else is going to read it. Then we write as if we were talking to ourselves, telling ourselves only what is true and important, without regard for anyone else’s opinion of it. It helps open the door previously held shut by concerns of what others will think of us.

If writing for publication, go back afterward and check whether the writing conforms to good grammar, etc. Allow violations, but know the reason why. Always have an editor you can trust to both know the rules and respect your heart. The first step in writing a good paper, article, story, or book is to first write a “bad” one. It’s not really bad, of course, just probably in need of lots of good editing. Know the difference between editing and writing. Start with the writing.

Samantha M. WHite, MSW, LICSW, is a psychotherapist and life coach in private practice. She has earned college degrees in Pre-Med, Chemistry, Computer Science, and Social Work, achieving her most recent degree, the MSW, at the age of fifty-five. Her career has spanned the fields of medical research, education, health care administration, business and medical, hospice, and clinical social work, and she is a writer, educator, and public speaker. She lives in New England with her jazz musician husband, plays folk harp and percussion instruments, and enjoys kayaking on quiet rivers and ponds. Visit her website at

Write Now: make a list of as many “rules” as you can think of that were uploaded into your head to govern your life. Then write a story about one of them, and how it has influenced you. Let intuition be your guide as you write, real and raw.


Amber Lea Starfire said...

Sharon, great post as always. I especially like the idea that thought shapes intuition, helping us to skillfully bring stories to life on the page. Journaling is a wonderful place to begin exploring memories, thoughts, ideas, characters, and so on. I always recommend that writers keep a writing journal, separate from the piece their working on, to allow for this kind of intuitive, private and reflective writing.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks Amber. That was a new idea to me also, and I'm right there with you on the journaling front.

kathleen pooler said...

Dear Sharon and Samantha,

I have heard these ideas of" write, don't edit, pour out your feelings in a journal,etc" but this post brings the importance of honoring our intuition to life with such clarity and power. All kinds of lights went off in my mind as I read it. My favorite part is "know the rules but put them aside while you are writing" Thank you both for a succinct and enlightening post about "writing real and raw". It seems we have to first give ourselves permission to honor our intuition.Excellent post!

Sharon Lippincott said...

I'm so glad you found this valuable. Based on what I've read on your blog, I suspect you already knew this on some level ...

Samantha M. White said...

Dear Amber, Sharon, and Kathleen, I'm flattered that you like my thoughts about this subject. Intuition has always been the voice within me that I believed I was supposed to silence. At some wonderful point in my life (mid-50's, I'd estimate), I realized that the persistent voice from within was actually my inner wisdom, my greatest asset! Fortunately, by then I had learned all the intellectual stuff, so I could combine my head and heart in approaching everything I do. Unfortunately, too many people lead with the head for so long that their "gut" voice has been disabled, drowned out, can no longer be accessed. I think that journaling was what kept my heart-voice alive. Thanks so much for the validation. Samantha

kathleen pooler said...

Thank you for shedding more light on this important discussion. I love: "keep your heart-voice alive" I will definitely take that one with me!