What is it? I’ve heard instinct is your subconscious picking up on cues you miss. Okay. So what’s your subconscious? Well, a friend told me one time it’s ‘that still, small voice inside that makes you feel still smaller’. Huh. I thought that was guilt. Whatever these weird things going on inside us are, I have yet to hear a definition that feels tangible to me. And I need tangible. I’m not much of a ‘take it on faith’ sort. But this isn’t a rambling on biology and the workings of the brain, or faith.

What fascinates me about instinct is how it intrudes in writing. I’ll be working away, words are flowing, everything seems hunky-dory. And then that still, small voice starts niggling back there behind the door I closed so I could write uninterrupted. It’s a mental whisper that manages to shout at the same time, yelling at me to stop, to go back, to take a breath. Which I don’t want to because I’m writing. Who wants to stop when things are working?

So I don’t stop, I ignore whatever that ephemeral presences is in the gray matter and keep going. And usually, a few days later, when I read over what I have written, I realize things weren’t going as well as I thought at the time. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of having headed off in the wrong direction, or sent a character off to do something totally out of character. Or I got too caught up in description, or have nothing but talking heads on the page. Whatever the problem is, I realize I should have listened to that voice because, in not doing so, I end up having wasted a lot of time.

Which raises the question, why don’t we listen? I can excuse that in someone who’s young. But someone with enough experience to know that not paying attention to that niggling doubt always, and I mean always, ends up in wishing attention had been paid? There’s no excuse. Possibly laziness. Possibly the ability to self-deceive and tell that voice that this time it’s wrong.

I have yet to have a situation where instinct told me to watch out, and it ended up being wrong. Whether it’s when the stranger comes up to the truck in the parking lot wanting to know if I have cash, to the family friend that everyone loves but your inner voice tells you is a creep, to the simple act of writing.  I know better. I know to listen. Sometimes I choose not to.

But I still want to know exactly what that voice is that’s telling me, at this moment, that the writing I did last night isn’t going to work.

Dang it. Did it again. Didn’t listen last night. I guess I have some rewriting to do.

The photo below has nothing to do with writing or this post. It’s simply that my son is 5’10 and driving and sometimes I wish he was still little and the future simple.

8 thoughts on “Instinct

  1. Such a cute picture of him!!!

    I think that instinct is something that we can not overwrite and we do act on it, its what we have left from living in caves…And I think that little voice inside us is our subconscious which tells us a lot of times what we should do by ways we learned throughout our life, moral thoughts or people like our moms told us, or as simple as the law. But our subconscious is our own inside voice, nobody can hear it but us and we can choose not to listen, not to follow its advice. It depends on ourselves, on who we are if we listen and what the voice tells us.

    I think your subconscious told you to stop because it knew already you are going in the wrong direction. Or maybe it knew you are going to fast and need to stop first to read over it.

    Dont feel bad about the time, you will have some more tomorrow waiting for me! 🙂


  2. I like the idea that instinct is left over from prehistoric times. Part of our lizard brain? That fight or flight, those things that make us act without thinking? Back then I think the act of survival included having to trust that the instinct was picking up on cues we missed. Or we were more aware and now we push that awareness back so that the majority of it is dormant.


  3. “This time you’re wrong.” I’ve said that to the small voice a few times too many. I’m trying to listen to it better these days.

    And I completely understand about the photo. My girl just had a birthday this month and I was so wistful. She’s been taller than me forever and out on her own for so long. Thank goodness she still let’s me call her by her “why on earth doesn’t it embarrass her” nickname. She actually likes it when I use it. Answers to it in public and everything. 🙂


    • I count myself very lucky that my teenager still has no problem giving me a quick hug in public, or hanging out and ‘solving the world’s problems’. I keep waiting for him to reach the point where he’s embarrassed to be seen with us and so far he hasn’t. Although the other day I made a comment to a teacher he will have next year and while we were laughing my son leaned down and said ‘this is why I don’t take you out in public’ which I thought hilarious. By the way, I keep trying to convince my instinct that it’s wrong, but it listens about as well as that same teenager.


    • I never considered thoughts as noise and that appeals to me. Mainly because it makes our instinct more important than the noise, something that should be heeded and respected. Thanks for this comment.


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