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Ways to Enroll Your Internal Editor

enroll your internal editorYes, there are times you’ll want to enroll your internal editor (IE).

I know, mostly I’ve talked here about how to get your internal editor to be quiet. It’s true, that voice in our head that tells us we can’t write or can’t write well enough, or that we should be writing something different or differently is a total pain.

Which simply means it has a bunch of power. You can use that power to support your writing rather than disturb it.

Talk to yourself

The theory I’m suggesting is based in Neuro Linguistic Programming. A very short form is that those voices in our head (I call mine the committee) are trying to keep us out of trouble. The negative voices started out offering protection. So that infernal internal editor is working hard to keep us from embarrassing ourselves or saying too much, or something like that – mileage will vary. Problems start when for whatever reason a voice doesn’t get updated and is trying to protect you with old information – which is a pretty good description of the internal editor.

You can update that voice by dialoging with it. I began more or less like this:

“Hi Internal Editor. Are you willing to talk with me?” I got a sense of a grudging ‘yes.’

“Great. I wanted to thank you for all the times you’ve kept me out of trouble by whispering things in my ear. I know you’ve been working to keep me safe. Are you willing to get some new information?” I got a sense of ‘well, maybe.’

“Thank you! I wanted to let you know I’m about to begin a new writing project… and I wondered if you’d be willing to hold your comments while I do the rough draft? I promise I’ll call on you when it’s time to sort out the rough draft so it really works. Would that be okay with you?” I got a sense of tentative agreement which was enough to start with. My internal editor was no longer fighting me. Over time it’s turned into a real help.

Keep in mind I’m not a therapist. I have had some training in NLP, but I’m not a practitioner. This is a technique I’ve used on myself off and on for years. It doesn’t always work. If I start to feel uncomfortable I stop; if I think I need help I find a qualified practitioner or therapist. With those caveats I can tell you my internal editor is no longer ‘infernal’ but a true partner in my writing.

Enroll your internal editor after it understands your rules

A truth about your internal editor is that you created it. Oh you probably didn’t mean to, but the rules it follows to keep you from writing or writing well are rules you devised either unconsciously or consciously. That means you can change your internal editor’s roll to a positive one. It’s really a matter of updating your IE and showing it how to be a force for good in your life. Using the approach of self-dialog outlined above chances are you can turn your IE into a true writing partner.

Enroll your internal editor when your rough draft comes to a screeching halt

Although I’ve trained my internal editor to be silent when I’m doing the first rough draft, I also will ask that part of me for help if I run out of ideas for the draft. You know the feeling. You start your rough draft then all the ideas seem to jam up and you’re well and truly stuck. This is a great time to enroll your internal editor to help you get a decent draft.

While you’re reading out loud

You can even enroll your internal editor to alert you to problems when you read a piece out loud. Chances are your ear will hear what your eye won’t see, largely because you’re already so familiar with the piece. Asking your IE for help seems to make reading out loud even more effective.

Try it and let us know how it works for you in comments. Or tell us your approach.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Rather than reading aloud yourself, have you ever enlisted someone else to read your work-so-far TO you? Or, when you read aloud, do you read it to someone else rather than merely to yourself? I find that either of these shows me unfailingly where the language is muddy or I’ve left the path and the through-line isn’t clear — far more effective for me than reading aloud to myself.

    • Great idea… and Claudia is a well-known, respected editor whom I highly recommend.

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