There are a thousand and one things that can keep a writer from putting words on the page, but nothing is so frustrating as something that is actually part of the writing process.
It is the Internal Editor.
That voice that seems to have total recall of all the writing rules you’ve ever heard in class, read in writing how-to books, or seen on writing blogs. That voice that knows your every weakness and exploits it at every opportunity. That blessed, whiny, carcass-picking voice that pounds your forehead like the Chinese water-torture until you are completely paralyzed and at its mercy.
You can tell I’m speaking from experience.
So how is a writer supposed to throttle that little…monster…so she can get some work done? I have a few helpful hints. The first one is a tactile experience that you might think is goofy, but I encourage you to give it a go.
LOCK HER UP!
1. Imagine your Inner Editor. What does she/he look like? Mine is a sharp-nosed old harridan that sort of resembles a cross between Phyllis Diller and Nanny McPhee.
2. Get out a 3x5 card and a crayon and draw your Inner Editor. (It doesn’t have to be good. Don’t listen to your Inner Art Critic—throttling Inner Art Critics is a blog for another day. Use a crayon because this will give you permission to draw something less than the Mona Lisa and not feel bad about it.)
3. Find yourself an envelope and a roll of duct tape.
4. Snip off a small piece of duct tape and tape it over your Inner Editor’s mouth. Then put the 3x5 card in the envelope. Seal it up, and put a piece of duct tape over the flap.
5. Using your crayon, write on the front: Do Not Open Until WIP First Draft Is Finished.
6. Place where you can see it while you write.
I know, you’re thinking, “This is silly. What difference could this possibly make?”
Trust me. Try it. What do you have to lose besides a 3x5 card and an envelope? I’m telling you, it works. There is such satisfaction in locking up that nasty beast. Whenever you are tempted to let her whisper her vitriolic drivel into your ear, look at the envelope, remind yourself you’ve stymied her anti-productive harping, and get back to writing.
My second tip for getting that Internal Editor off your shoulder is simple. Get busy writing. Don’t wait for a time when it feels good, when the Editor has decided to sit by the pool and drink Mai Tais.
Write and write fast. Here are some ways to get that process started:
GET BUSY WRITING AND DON’T GIVE THE EDITOR A CHANCE TO SPEAK
1. Give yourself permission to write a crummy first draft. You can always go back and let the editor out to survey the landscape later, but you can’t edit a blank page. Once you get some momentum, the editor’s voice will be drowned out by the story. It’s when you pick and poke at your WIP in halting steps that the editor has time to examine every adverb and denigrate every description.
2. Join in a speed writing adventure like
b. NaNoWriMo November’s Novel Writing Frenzy
c.. NovelTrack (Available through the ACFW)
d. #1k1hr Facebook Group started by Seeker-Villager Carol Moncado and going strong!
3. Believe in yourself and your process. Drown negativity. Remember your successes, remember that EVERYBODY writes a lousy first draft, and that you, too, can improve whatever it is you’re putting on the page.
4. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting friends. You’ve got a passel of them right here at Seekerville. They will commiserate, hold your hand, and they’re adept at giving you a well-timed kick in the pants when it’s called for. (Again speaking from experience. :D )
So that’s it. That’s what I do to press the mute button on my Internal Editor. She’s not all bad. There are appropriate times for her to speak, but it isn’t when I’m writing the first draft. And I know what you’re thinking. Does drawing a picture of a gnarled old woman and taping her mouth shut really work?
Yep, and you should try it today. There will never be a better time, and you might be surprised at how good it feels.
Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.
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