by Christine Hennebury
Do you have an annoying inner voice?
I’m not referring to your conscience. I’m talking about your inner editor.
The one who keeps interrupting your first draft to remind you that it still needs work.
Unlike a real live editor, this one is kind of missing the point. Real, live editors wouldn’t expect you to have gotten everything right on the first try. And, they certainly wouldn’t interrupt you while you are writing to tell you to change that single word.
Real live editors know that there is a time and a place for editing. With very few exceptions, the first draft is NOT it.
That’s not to say that your inner editor is evil. She (or he) has good intentions – to protect you from making mistakes, to avoid wasting time, and to help create a great story. Unfortunately, his or her combination of perfectionism, procrastination, and attempted efficiency results in you struggling to get anything finished. In fact, you might have trouble writing at all!
That’s why you need to find a way to appease your inner editor.
Since you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you can’t just ignore your inner editor. So, I’m hoping you’ll ‘make friends’ with her (or him) so you can both reach your common goal – writing that you are proud of. You have to find a way to help your editor relax so you can get the words out, then she (or he) can help you whip them into shape.
Here are some things that writers I know have said to their inner editors. Perhaps your inner editor will respond to them, too?
(You can choose whether or not you say them aloud)
‘I’ll make a note of that.’
If the same things (‘mistakes’) keep popping up for you while you write, perhaps your inner editor just needs to know that you are on the case. Keep an extra sheet of paper (or a notebook) nearby when you write. Then, when you have a pop-up thought, say ‘I’ll make a note of that’ and write it down.
Be sure to come back to it later or this trick might not work next time!
‘Give me 10 minutes.’
Maybe your inner editor would be open to some bargaining. If you promise to give equal attention to your editing, perhaps you can get some peace while you write? Try saying something like ‘I can’t edit until I get something on paper. Give me 10 minutes to get this down then I’ll fix it a little.’
‘Editing starts at 4.’
If your editor is very persistent, you may need to set a schedule before he or she will calm down. Start your writing plan by scheduling a revision session afterward. That way, you might be able to calm the push to edit because you have a time set aside for it.
‘This is just practice.’
Perhaps your editor is VERY CONCERNED that you are going to accidentally send unpolished writing out into the world. If you can remind your editor (and yourself) that this is a first draft (and hence, probably not all that important) you might find a bit of peace.
‘We’ll save time by editing at the end.’
That editor of yours might be trying to be efficient. That leads to being quite focused on the word-by-word. So, that probably means that she (or he) is not looking at the document as a whole. If you can remind her (or him) that you will actually *save* time by looking at the big picture, you might get more time to write.
After all, if you edit word by word, you will have to revise even more at the end.
‘It’s good enough for now.’
This is a tough one. I know that. However, as writers, we have to accept that we won’t always be brilliant. And we won’t always be clear. Try to convince your editor that there is such a thing as ‘good enough for now’ so you can move on and finish your piece.
‘I appreciate your help.’
This one is not for everyone. Some of us are pretty comfortable sweet-talking our inner selves, and some of us are decidedly not.
If you fall into the second category, feel free to ignore this one!
If sweet-talking to yourself seems just fine to you, here’s what to say:
‘Thanks for keeping an eye on my work. I appreciate your help. You don’t need to worry so much, though. I understand that we will need to edit this before anyone can see it.’
Perhaps that reassurance will let your inner editor rest so your inner writer can go full steam ahead.
Find a way to keep writing
No matter what you choose to say to your inner editor, it’s important that you stick to your writing. It will take practice to keep writing while that editor protests but you can do it.
After all, we have to edit with a whole different mindset than the one we use when we’re writing. If you can teach yourself to only use one mindset at a time, you’ll get a lot more done.
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com or visit her on Facebook .