17 November 2012

Tactics of an Inner Editor

Many writers have to deal with that pest we call an inner editor. It hacks at the writer and their ideas. It shreds prose. In general, it makes a nuisance of itself, stealing any fun a writer might find, until the writer either binds it in a corner or they throw up their hands in disgust. The latter is what the IE hopes to accomplish. Or really, it’s what the writer’s fears want to accomplish, because that is really what the inner editor really is the personification of. Let’s talk a little about this pain’s tactics and how we can work our ways around it.

I used to think the Roman Catholic Church had the market cornered when it came to guilt. Then I became a writer. No one buries you in guilt better than a nun or an inner editor.

“The kids are hungry.”
“The dishes need washing.”
“This is wasting time you could be spending working in the garden.”

I’m sure there are hundreds of comments we hear from our IE when we sit to write. Of course, they continue the barrage throughout the writing session. This is your guilt because you’re not feeling like your writing time fits your life.

So how do we deal with them? Remembering that every journey is different, I’ll offer my tactics. You can adjust them or try something else. Would love to hear how in the comments.

Being raised as a Roman Catholic, I’ve learned that guilt is that third angel on the shoulder they never show. Good, Evil, Guilt. If guilt gets to you, it brings you down. The best tactic I’ve found to combat guilt is to create a schedule. I’ll write for an hour then wash the dishes. Dinner is in the oven, I have time to write for a half hour. I offer a reason why the guilt isn’t strong enough to get past my writing time I’ve blocked out of my schedule. By pushing toward traditional publication, I can also chalk writing up as my second job which also quiets the guilt trip.

I think I’m being nice by labeling the IE a bully at this point.

Write a sentence and it pipes in with a jab or a right cross, based on word selection, structure, or even punctuation. It berates you, hammers at your confidence, even so much as emotionally slams you into second guessing what you just wrote. For some, this is the constant. You can’t just write, because the IE is so strong you feel it must be perfect to shut the darn thing up.

Rest assured, this is not necessary.

Some writers work best when they can edit the previous session’s work before diving into the new material. This is fine. As long as they realize that the new material will have time for editing, to just get the words on the paper first. Editing is part of the process of writing; it could be the worst or the best, depending on your viewpoint. But no manuscript will be perfect upon completion of the first draft.

Yes, I’ve heard the boasts from writers that claim they havw a perfect first draft. Unless they are self-publishing, I know of no writer who hasn’t had repair requests from an editor.

Never fear, there is a way to repair this problem.

Just write. Put the words on the page/screen and don’t worry about anything else. If you have to edit when you write, split your writing time into two parts. Edit for the first half or second half of your designated writing time. Work to put new words on the page during the opposite half.

Psychology has proven this is actually the better way to work. This works because your creative side, or the right brain, doesn’t work the same as the analytical side, the left brain. Trying to work them together creates conflict and stress. It creates an inner dispute. To continue with the Psychology narrative, it’s a battle of Super Ego versus your ID. The Superego is the analytical side trying to perfect everything, while the Id is the creative side just trying to have fun. Splitting their time allows both to work without conflict.

Overall, I think the important part to realize is that the Inner Editor is nothing more than a construct, an excuse within yourself, for why you’re having difficulties. What really needs to happen is for one to find where their inner editor works best. Once you establish this, you’ll break your excuse and jump through the next writing hoop.

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