Have you met your Inner Editor?
I don’t mean the grammatical one or the one that can help us write and is kind to have around. I am talking about the diminutive voice inside your head, or it may feel like there are several of them. I’m talking about the one that stops you mid-sentence to disapprove what you have just typed. The one that guides your fingers toward the delete or backspace keys, it may even be as brutal as guiding your mouse towards the shutdown tab.
Some days they begin to speak up before your fingers can even hit a key, questioning: Are you really going to start off with that? Shouldn’t you be doing something you are good at? Do you really think people are going to read this? Yes, That’s the one I’m talking about.
Meet another Inner Editor. The one that allows words but makes you stop to read it over and over, and over again, while pondering if they are good enough. The one that is worried about every word and constantly searches for synonyms and asks the questions: Are you using the correct word? Is the writing lyrical? Does the story flow?
Or, there is the loudest one of all that flat out tells you this is outlandish and if you’re struggling with a first draft then how are you going to finish a book?
Naturally, our minds wonder. It’s simply human, we all know this. And being a writer, you know the voice inside your head can talk non-stop while you try and work on your writing. It may give you advice on how to fix what you just wrote. It may tell you you’re no good at writing, or it may just befuddle you.
Here are four ways to control your Inner Editor and keep it from distracting you as you write:
• Set up a timer, so that you have a certain amount of time that you are committed to not looking at what you’ve written. Start with fifteen minutes increments and then try thirty minutes and then an hour.
• Practice. This may sound overly simple, but one of the best ways to quieten your Inner Editor is to be aware of it and to ignore it when it comes up. Remind yourself that you will edit the book when the time is right (you can even make comments to remind yourself what to fix later and keep moving on). When you get in the habit of not doing any major edits until after the writing is done, even if it’s just getting that 2,000 words done for the day, will get you closer to your goals as a writer.
• Write in silence. Now that you have met your Inner Editor, you need to put it somewhere where you can’t hear it. Consciously put it in a place far away from your writing area like the drawer, outside the window, or, better yet, in a locked away space. Wherever you put it, make sure it’s nowhere near your computer or your writing desk. It is so much easier to concentrate and write when your Inner Editor is silent? Focus on the stream of creativity, sit down at your writing desk or computer and just write. If you can still hear your Inner Editor, you haven’t hidden it well enough. Stop, repeat the process again and make sure it’s completely hidden before you write.
• Write from your body? Yes. Drop down out of your head and into your body. Pay attention to your senses. Watch your body’s experience, just like in meditation. What are you feeling? Take a break and go for a walk and pay attention to your walking. Practice yoga for ten minutes and drop into your body. Let the writing come from a place of sensory awareness. You see, the Inner Editor lives in your mind, not in your body.
The body doesn’t howl at you for every less than inspired sentence you write. Your body doesn’t have an opinion on your writing, doesn’t care how good each sentence is. And this is exactly the pressure-free space inspired writing comes from.
What all of these approaches have in common is that they keep you in the process of writing, rather than focused on the outcome. They take away some of the pressure of writing. They help you not care so much about the eminence of what you produce. And if you don’t have the pressure of writing a best seller for your first draft, you will have a better chance of writing well. But you can’t pretend; you can’t pretend not to care about your Inner Editor. You have to really not care. You have to trust you are a good writer and surrender to that belief.
I’m not saying you should never care about the excellence of your writing, if you engage with the critical mind in the first draft, the critical mind’s, Inner Editor, will always be waiting at your keyboard for you.
So I invite you to invite your Inner Editor to wait outside the door, at least until you’ve finished the first draft of your chapter or book.