Easier said than done! When we sit down to write a story, we carry an idea for how we want to execute it. The problem arises when we try terribly hard to (or force) the initial plans for execution. The tighter our grip on an idea, the more difficult it is to let in meaningful inspiration. The key, I've found, is to plant an intention-- i.e. this is how I'd like to write this story-- and listen to the inner wisdom that reveals itself as I pursue the intention.
There's an exercise I heard about recently, from Jack Kornfield's A Lamp in the Darkness, which reveals this technique:
1. Imagine a difficult situation from your past (one not too overwhelming to revisit). It could be an argument, a conflict, or a time you were emotionally distraught.
2. Place yourself there. Remember where you were sitting, who you were looking at or thinking about. Feel what you felt then. Remember the experience of being helpless, of being trapped.
3. Now imagine the wisest character you know (fictional-- i.e. Gandalf or Maria from The Sound of the Music, or nonfictional) enters the room or area in which you were feeling distraught.
4. Think about what that character would say to you and the others in the room in that moment. Take a minute.
Does what the character says make you feel better? Does it help the situation?
5. Now consider that the character was speaking your words. You authored the dialogue. You told them what to say. You brought them to life. That advice was within you the whole time.
This exercise reveals that there's an intelligence within us which runs deeper than we sometimes know. It's at work when we don't even realize it. It's sometimes neglected by our more conscious desire to force the "correct" answers.
This same well-- the one that runs deeper than the conscious mind-- is one I seek to tap into when writing. It's elusive. It's quiet. It's patient. It's revealed when we're not trying. It's what we talk about when we talk about writing with abandon.
I am still learning about this well, and I am, in some respects, afraid of it. What would I say if I truly let go? Do I have harmful impulses that will slip out if I'm not keeping them in line with my conscious efforts? I don't have the answers to these questions. But after the writing process is the editing process, wherein conscious efforts play their part.