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Tell Your Internal Editor to Wait!

internal editorDoes your internal editor every drive you crazy? Have you ever wasted an hour or so trying to compose the perfect title, or sentence or paragraph and had your internal editor insist nothing was good enough? Or maybe you’ve caught yourself unwilling or unable to choose between two words or even two ideas. If so that’s your internal editor.

Unlike professional editors, our internal editor is often more interested in trying to protect us against embarrassment or rejection, etc., then helping make our writing more readable, interesting and clear. That is, our internal editor, like the rest of the committee in our head, tries like mad to protect us from feeling pain, in this case mostly emotional pain. We may know as much about writing and editing as any professional,unless we keep our internal editor updated and trained to really support us it’s likely to get in our way.

An approach to asking our internal editor to wait

Once you recognize that the inside editor is actually trying to protect you from some sort of emotional upset, it’s fairly easy to ask it to wait. Here are the steps I use.

First, I acknowledge the editor inside, usually mentally, although I’ve been known to mutter this out loud.

Then I thank it for what it’s trying to do.

Next, I tell it that while I appreciate it’s efforts I’d like it to wait until the rough draft is finished.

The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey you, thanks for trying to help me write this piece. I know you’ve got great ideas and only want to protect me from upset. How about you wait until we finish this draft and then comment? I know your input would be truly helpful then.”

Sound strange? I can only tell you that I’ve found this to work. Normally I’m left in peace.

When the draft is complete I invite that same inside editor to help me clean up the rough draft and I seem to get the help I need.

Okay, I talk to myself

Yes, I talk to myself and often to the voices in my head. Seems to work well for me. Fortunately, as a freelancer there are few around to hear me. So far the cats and the roommates seem to ignore me, which is fine.

I think finding ways to work with ourselves about our writing is key to actually getting the writing started and done.

What do you think? Tell us in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

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