As a writer, there’s no critic more harsh than ourselves. That inner voice keeps telling us our work isn’t good or we are failures or we’ll never complete our draft. That negative voice bouncing around in our heads can sometimes keep us from producing our greatest work.
So how do we quiet our inner editor? How do we tell her to take a hike or get lost or just go away?
Standing up to our worst critic can be the most empowering move we make in our writing careers. Here’s how you can quiet your inner editor.
I love starting a writing session with a little self-love. I will sometimes read a passage or chapter of one of my already completed projects — something that makes me happy or proud. For me, it’s one of those moments where I can say “yes, I can write things”.
It’s also a reminder that what I wrote wasn’t perfect the first time I put it down. Because I know the process that passage went through to get to the published stage, I can remind myself that what I’m creating isn’t going to be perfect right away.
Find something that uplifts you or gets you motivated to start. Treat yourself with some love and use that to help quiet your inner editor.
Another way to help get over the initial hump of starting is to warm up for your writing session. Before I write a chapter or pick up where I left off, I do a warm up session. Sometimes that’s in the form of a journal entry. Sometimes I head to Colin Wright’s Authorcise where it times me (and gives a prompt, if you’re interested) so I can just write whatever with no pressure and no time to hit the backspace key.
A friend of mine uses 750 Words to write daily and track progress. It has some really awesome stats as well if you want to challenge yourself. You can use any of these tools to work on your project, write jibberish, or use it to sort out your thoughts. Half the time on these platforms I will write out a stream of thoughts and have a bit of a conversation with myself about my WIP. I can tell you guys this and not feel weird because we’re all writers.
I have to admit that this is a new one for me but it has done wonders. Instead of pantsing it, I’ve found that an outline (even a very minimal one) can help me stay on track and know what comes next. If I reach a point where I need to get from A to B but can’t figure out the details, I can just write in a phrase and highlight it before moving to point B in my outline.
Sometimes the phrase is “CHARACTER MOVES TO THIS LOCATION” and then I pick up as if the transition has already happened. That way I can go back and know what I wanted to happen and fill it in later. I don’t allow my inner editor to sit and get frustrated over small details.
Perhaps this is my skill as a former athlete but often I can use my inner editor as motivation. I grew up with a lot of people telling me I’d never play softball in college, I’d never pitch at that level, and I’d never survive the student-athlete life because I wasn’t smart enough. Let’s get over the fact that grown adults were telling me this as a 12-year-old and look instead at what I did about it.
Thankfully I had some amazing parents and a few really good supporters. They taught me to use these critics as fuel to work harder. Instead of letting them tear me down, I used it to fuel my fire and work harder than everyone around me. Eventually, I pitched in college, graduated (and got two master’s degrees), AND I played professionally for three years after getting both of my shoulders repaired.
Perhaps you can give your inner editor a persona so you can tell her to shove it as you write on. Sometimes I like to picture my inner editor as one of my softball critics so I can rub it in their face again.
When my inner editor is extra noisy, I like to pretend that what I’m writing is just for fun. When I take the pressure off myself that the book needs to be as good (or better) than my previous ones in the series, I can usually get to work. It’s not easy but it is a relief to pretend as if what I write will never see the light of day.
Another way to do this is to pretend it’s not being written under your name (assuming you currently write under your own name). By pretending you are writing under a pen name, you release some of the pressure that your final project will be tied to you. That can help you get the first draft written and you can fix it all later.
What are some of your solutions for quieting your inner editor?
You can follow my writing journey by joining my tribe.