Is your Inner Editor a friend or foe? For most of us the answer is dependent on where we are in the writing process. This overly helpful voice lives inside most of us and comes in handy when we’re putting the finishing touches on our manuscripts. But when we’re in the midst of a creative surge, that same help can short-circuit our progress.
There’s a scientific reason for that roadblock. The creative act of writing a first draft stems from the right side—or creative side—of the brain. Later in the process, when polishing begins, the left side takes over.
- Visual in process, focusing more on patterns and images.
- Generally intuitive, led by feelings.
- Is the epitome of multi-tasking, able to process ideas simultaneously.
- Progresses from the big picture to the details.
- Lacks organization, utilizes free association.
- More verbal, needs to find specific words to express ideas.
- Analytical, led by logic.
- Takes things step by step, one idea at a time.
- Organizes details first before moving to the big picture.
- Very organized, utilizing lists and detailed plans.
Mixing up the process—trying to use both sides of the brain at the same time—can lead to a tangled mess and a major roadblock. All of this is good to know, but what if our left-brained Inner Editor won’t go away? There isn’t one way that works for everyone, but here are some tips that should help.
- Don’t give in to temptation. Our Inner Editor gets stronger the more frequently we give in to his demands. If he thinks you need a certain word before you can finish that sentence, stay strong. Type xxx and go on. Later, during the rewriting process, you’ll have plenty of time to find the right word. At this point in your manuscript, speed is your best friend.
- Set a daily and weekly word count goal. This can often sidetrack the Inner Editor because of his need to meet a goal. Sometimes, in his drive to succeed he can even become an ally.
- Make lists in a separate notebook. Use your computer for the story, but if the need for details overshadows the creative urge, make a quick note in a notebook. Don’t let yourself get bogged down.
- Don’t give in to fear. Many times our Inner Editor is driven by fear. Fear that this draft isn’t good, won’t work or just doesn’t make sense. Remind yourself that this version isn’t written in stone. Sometimes just giving ourselves permission to write a crummy first draft is all we need to derail our inner editor.
No matter how insistent your Inner Editor, these tips can help you change his role from enemy to encourager.
Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog,The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She currently has two books available, the best selling eBook, Social Media Marketing for Writers, and her latest project, a devotional for those with family members in the military, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle.Married 30 years to her high school sweetheart, Kirk, they have raised three sons.