How learning to trust my intuition has made me a better creative

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Some time during my school years, I became someone who relied on logic.

I was just passing into adulthood when I first took the personality test MBTI. The test told me I was a sensor, not an intuitive, and in a way it was probably true. I had been fed the idea that you should not listen to your intuition or gut feeling. It wasn’t to be trusted. It wasn’t logic.

It has taken me a long time to even understand what my intuition is. I’ve been overthinking and second-guessing everything for so long, I had forgotten what it means to trust my intuition.

So what is intuition, really?

Intuition has historically some pretty strong spiritual connotations, often used in terms of knowing that something would happen before it did. But that’s not how it’s mostly used today.

Here’s what the dictionary has to say about intuition:

The ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.

It’s easy to understand why people would think intuition was a divine message. But psychology says it’s rather your brain.

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman writes about the brain’s two systems. The slow one is your logical reasoning, and the fast one? That’s intuition. Both systems have their perks and their moments to shine.

Intuition taps into your emotions and past knowledge. It can make decisions based on things you can’t fully formulate yet, on understandings you struggle to sort into rational arguments. You just know.

Ignoring my intuition

In my early twenties, I second-guessed everything. My own feelings. My view of myself. My abilities. My ideas. I thought it was what I was supposed to do.

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After that first time I took the MBTI personality test, I started reading about it and soon realised I might not be a sensor as the test showed. But I was terrified of deluding myself into believing I was something I wasn’t, so ironically I tried to prove by logic that I was an intuitive and not a sensor.

During the same time, I tried to start writing my first novel. Let’s just say, it didn’t go so well. I never got anywhere because I was stuck overthinking it.

The change in both my slight identity crisis and my creative work started to happen when I realised I actually had to trust myself. Have faith. And yes - listen to my intuition.

As I’ve explored my creativity the past few years, I’ve bit by bit rediscovered my intuition, and started to trust it. Today, I test as an INFJ.

Using your intuition to create

Many, many creatives work in a highly intuitive way. All writers who propose not planning but instead discovering your story by writing it is doing it by using intuition.

I do plan my writing to some extent - I still love to ponder and consider and ask myself why something works or doesn’t. But when it comes down to the actual writing, putting fingers to keyboard, I have to let all that go. I tap into my intuition, I trust the process and just write. Afterwards I can step back out again and analyse it.

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It’s the same with photography. The times when I struggle is always when I think too much. When I’m dead set on getting it a certain way and I’m trying to control everything. I’ve learned that to take good photos, I have to stop thinking and let things happen by themselves.

There’s a caveat to this. Using your intuition when creating mainly works when you understand the craft to some degree. I can’t construct a novel by using my intuition because I haven’t honed that skill enough yet. And when I started practising my photography, I had to think more than I do now.

But once you do get to that level of understanding, your intuition is the flow state, and your logic is the editor, the one that considers what you can improve or do better next time.

Using your intuition to make creative decisions

While I got the part about tapping into my intuition to get into flow fairly quickly, using it to make decisions took longer. After all, we’re told to weigh pros and cons. To make well-grounded choices.

But the thing is… logic has a tendency of disregarding your emotions. It struggles to defend choices it can’t put into words well. And sometimes, especially in creativity, you need to make those kind of decisions.

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Throwing out my first two drafts of my novel and then spending two years to write the third one didn’t seem like a good decision to my logical mind (or my friends and family). But I knew I understood things about storytelling I hadn’t before. That it would be different this time around.

So I went for it. I believed in myself and my own judgement. I trusted my intuition. And it paid off, because I now have a book draft at a whole other level than the first two.

How you can tap into your intuition

If you’re prone to rely heavily on your logical mind, I have a couple of tips to awaken your intuition and hear what it has to say on the subject. These are things that have helped me to stop overthinking.

  • When making a decision, stop and consider which choice feels right. Which are you pulled towards, even if it doesn’t make complete sense?

  • When creating, do a small mindfulness exercise - breathe, listen to the sounds around you and feel your feet against the ground. Then start creating without trying to control what comes out.

  • If you’re exploring what you want or which direction to go in, try letting your mind wander in a fantasy or journal freely.

  • If you’re stuck overthinking something, take a break and go for a walk or do something else with your body. Let you mind go where ever it likes. See if a choice or solution arises.

I still have to remind myself to listen to my intuition when it comes to my creative work, especially of the more strategic kind. When I get the feeling that something is right or wrong, I automatically follow it up with a “why?”. Nothing wrong with that, I like to ask why. But what I’m learning is that the why should be curious, rather than sceptical.

And that sometimes it’s okay not to know why, but to just know.

 
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