There’s an old Mel Brooks routine, on the flip side of the “2,000-Year-Old Man,” where the psychiatrist tells his patient, “Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.” And when I first tell my students this, they look at me as if things have clearly begun to deteriorate. But it is as important a concept in writing as it is in real life.
It means, of course, that when you don’t know what to do, when you don’t know whether your character would do this or that, you get quiet and try to hear that still small voice inside. It will tell you what to do. The problem is that so many of us lost access to our broccoli when we were children. When we listened to our intuition when we were small and then told the grown-ups what we believed to be true, we were often either corrected, ridiculed, or punished. God forbid you should have your own opinions or perceptions—better to have head lice.
So you may have gotten into the habit of doubting the voice that was telling you quite clearly what was really going on. It is essential that you get it back.
You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. You need to trust yourself.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
Anne Lamott — Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (pp. 110-112)
There are many parallels between writing and life. Often times, when we sit down to write the blank page glares at us—as though with a snarl—and dares us to come up with something, anything worthwhile. The blank page can seem intimidating at first—especially when we view it as something that needs tackled or wrestled to the ground. When we get quiet and listen to our intuition, though, writing can be one of the purest experiences available.
Life can be a lot like writing. Some days it feels daunting and depressing to think our life is exactly like a blank page. We can turn our life into anything we choose. Do we even understand that we have a choice to make our life anything we want?
Instead of listening to our rational mind about what we want for our lives, what if we created some space for ourselves, quieted our mind, and listened to that still small voice that desperately wants to be heard? What if we allowed our intuition to speak to us again?
What might your life look like if you created the masterpiece out of it you desired? Maybe your conditioning has caused you to lack confidence and distrust your intuition. To that, Anne says: “You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side.” When I first read Anne’s words many years ago, I was still learning what it might look like to be militantly on my own side. After years of reading and writing, learning and growing, studying and applying; I can confidently say I am militantly on my own side now.
I also currently understand what is meant by listening to your broccoli. Life—like writing—required me to listen to my broccoli—not everyone else’s. Now, I write the story for my life.
Today, I give you permission to militantly be on your own side—and by all means, listen to your broccoli.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,
I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book, but it’s fresh each time. I’d like to think I am a particularly rational mind, broccoli notwithstanding. But the word rational contains the word ration if I can be rational about it. Why would I need or want to ration my self, but I do quite often. These are great reminders for writing and life. Thanks Travis…and, oh, please pass the broccoli.
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