I’d written ten linked stories for my collection, Consecration Pond. I even had a publisher. But I had an idea for one more story, with an unconventional—nonhuman—narrator. I’d broached the idea with my publishing team, and they’d all loved it. I’d done my research—books I’d borrowed from my public library and various scientific and historical documents I’d found online. I had a sense of what the story would feel like when it was finished—how it would tie the collection together—but I had no idea how to begin.
What was the basic plot?
Who would the characters be?
What about theme?
Anxiety prickled in my gut as I faced the truth: I was worse than lost—because I didn’t even know where I was going.
At one time or another we’ve all been physically, geographically lost. It happened to my daughter and me while we were hiking last spring in Dartmoor National Park. Fortunately, we had a compass and an ordinance map. Without them, what could we—would we—have done?
We’d have been forced to rely on our intuition.
When I get lost in a short story, essay, or poem, intuition is the backup tool I’ve learned to trust. The question is, how to access it? One thing I’ve discovered about intuition—mine anyway—is that it likes to come out and play at night. So here’s what I do:
When I invited intuition to help me write my “unconventional” story, I’d barely fallen asleep when I woke again with an idea: Take two of the many themes I’d already tried and discarded—and combine them. I jotted down the idea, and when I woke the next morning, found that, during the night, the two themes had begun to gel. I sat down at my laptop and began to write. There was no hesitation, no starting and stopping. Within a few hours, I had a complete first draft. That draft became the tenth and title story in my novel in stories, Consecration Pond.