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3 Ways To Turn Your Infernal, Internal Editor Into An Ally

infernal, internal editorEvery freelance writer I know has an inner editor. Often that inner voice is a problem, telling us that whatever we’ve written, it isn’t good enough. It’s that secret accuser that makesa writer rewrite a single sentence until we have no idea what we’re trying to say, or sends you off to do the dishes rather than write.

That infernal, internal editor can, however, turn into a valued friend for your freelance writing career.  The trick is to enroll it into supporting your efforts. Try these steps:

  1. First, remember you are in charge, not that internal, critical editor voice.
  2. Next, tell that internal editing voice that you appreciate its help, but only at the appropriate times.
  3. Ask that voice for suggestions, not judgments.

Sound a bit wacky? Maybe, but it works for me and others. This sort of self-patterning is based, loosely, on Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). The theory is we can reframe, among other things, our self-talk so we are better at supporting ourselves and our efforts. It works roughly as follows:

Remember, You ARE In Charge

Most of us do seem to have a committee in our head. It’s as if various aspects of ourself needs to speak up. Sometimes that voice is helpful, often not.

But you, the big YOU or Self is actually in charge of your thinking, or can be. It takes some practice but you can learn to ignore, or at least tone done those voices.

I do it by imagining all of them sitting a big conference table, with me at the head of it. I’ve got a great big gavel in my hand and when my mental committee members are chattering too much I bang that gavel down hard and remind them all I’m in charge. I’ve been doing this for years and rarely have to bang the gavel any more.

Appreciate Your Internal Editor

Okay, now that you know I talk to my self (selves), here’s the next step. I actually tell my internal editor that I appreciate her, that I know she’s trying to help and only wants the very best for me.
I then assure her that I will want her help later, and that if she can keep silent for the moment we’ll both be glad and the writing will get done.

Again, it took some time, but now that editor will usually be quiet until I call on her.

Ask Your Infernal, Internal Editor For Help

And I do call on her. Once I’ve written my draft and am ready to rewrite, I ask that internal editor for help.

For example, I once was hired to take sermon transcriptions and turn them into readable prose booklets. The minister never got a Bible quote exactly right so I developed an internal editor called Mildred. She was about 80-years-old, lived in Iowa and knew her Bible! (Apologies to all the Mildreds, Iowans and 80-year-olds). Mildred caused me to buy a good concordance and spend, in some cases, several hours finding the intended quote and making sure it was accurate in the booklets. Mildred still helps me with fact checking, particularly when I get bored or really tired of checking up on my own work.

That’s the kind of internal editor every writer wants and needs.

Of course, the help you request doesn’t have to be that specific. A simply “how can I make this sentence work better,” or “what’s the word I really want?” works too.

It takes some practice to really learn to work with your inner editor, but it can be done and it’s worth the effort.

Who else talks to their infernal, internal editor?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • AJ

    Interesting points about the internal editor. I thought it was just me and my strive for perfection when I’m writing that makes me so picky and OCD about every word and grammatical mark. But now I know lots of other people go through this.

    For me, it helps to just imagine that whatever I am writing is for me. I forget about the client, the publisher, even the audience and think of myself as the main recipient of the message. Sounds crazy, but for me it works and my documents are better because of it.

    Thinking about who I am writing for all the time rather than what I’m writing takes the fun out of writing.

    • Anne

      AJ, if it works for you no need to change it. Glad to help you find out you’re not alone with a demanding internal editor.

  • LOL! Talk to yourself, you do? My internal editor is very powerful. He makes me type these comments as perfectly as possible, every comma in the right place. But he’s not the committee member I have to watch out for. It’s the one who constantly says, “Hey, let’s go over to aboutfreelancewriting and see what Anne’s up to today!” Hard to resist that voice.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

    • Anne

      you will not resist that voice, you will go to aboutfreelancewriting.com multiple times a day and tell everyone you know to do the same thing….
      you will not resist that voice, you will go to aboutfreelancewriting.com multiple times a day and tell everyone you know to do the same thing….
      you will not resist that voice, you will go to aboutfreelancewriting.com multiple times a day and tell everyone you know to do the same thing….

  • Hey Rebecca,

    My inner voice has barrocaded the office door and is holding me hostage with an MK-47. He’s threatening to empty the magazine unless I give up any idea that I’m capable of writing anything of merit.

    What he’ll do is tricky. He’ll let me write it, trick me into thinking that I like it. But when I read it back, THEN he starts up.
    .-= Michael Baker´s last blog ..David Hewson and Ann Cleeves Book Tour =-.

  • Great post! I have an internal editor that frowns upon ending a sentence with a preposition and using too many adjectives, adverbs, and dashes (glorified commas). My internal editor suggests I read out loud to make sure my writing sense. If I could get my internal editor to “pitch” in with writing my young adult novel that would be splendid.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..How to Use Facebook to Grow Any Business =-.

    • Anne

      Your editor will help if you ask… nicely.

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