Things Your Inner-Editor Needs to Hear You Say

You know your inner-editor.

He or she interrupts your creativity to tell you that you’ve misplaced a comma, or that you’ve used the wrong version of the word two. At the rigWriting-Computers-and coffeeht time, your inner-editor can enhance your writing. But sometimes you need to have a few words with that persistent punctuation pesterer and send them out for a latte so that you can get some work done. Here are a few things they might need to hear you say.

“I give myself permission to write freely.” (This is different from free-writing or spirit writing, which I don’t advocate.)

Sometimes it is okay to write fast and furious and follow the idea as it comes to you. Let the idea take you where it leads. I love this quote from Ray Bradbury, “Jump off tWriting-Computers and Coffee 2he cliff and build your wings on the way down.” For most of his career, Ray Bradbury had a typewriter. He didn’t even have cut and paste, but he gave himself permission to make his writing better after he got the story down. Some people do create and edit at the same time. Sometimes I do that; more often it’s with an article, rather than a story. Even when I am working this way, there are some things that I skip over to get the majority of the article out. I know I will come back and correct these minor points later in the process. (I especially like to ignore the MS Word squiggly underlines).

“I don’t need your help to brainstorm.”Writing - inner editor - lightning

Brainstorming is a process where one thought leads to another and where the “what if” sends you careening off the cliff, providing the chance to build the previously mentioned wings. Don’t focus on the practicality of an idea at this point. Consider twists on movies, or life situations. Slap two unrelated ideas together. Have fun. Be silly and curious. For instance, Bill Cosby once wondered what would happen if the Polaroid people worked on shortening the time it took for a baby to develop in the womb.

“You’re not always right.”

Yes, your inner-editor can make mistakes. You want your writing to be in your voice and to also be clear to your reader. This usually works well with some compromise between your writer and editor personalities, but sometimes editing gets away from you. Sometimes you have to go back and find that happy in-between and put things back into your piece that your inner-editor took out.

“I can use the same words several times in my first draft.”

I do this often during the free-writing process (see above disclaimer). I sometimes try to stop and tell myself that I have overused the word “task” or “thing.” I find I do better if I search for overused words afterward using MS Word’s “Find” feature.writing fixed books

“And occasionally I can start a sentence with a conjunction.”

I was taught the “no conjunction at the beginning of a sentence” rule. At least I think I was. But perhaps I picked it up along the way. According to this page from Oxford Dictionaries it isn’t necessarily true. But as pointed out eloquently in the movie Finding Forester, you may only want to use this as a tool occasionally.

“I need you.”

You will find that you do need your inner-editor as the first line of defense against sloppy or unclear writing. Some people think that writers should only write and let someone else edit. I believe your writing should be clear and fairly close to finished before you hand it off to someone else to ask them to catch the things you missed. So, when you send your inner-editor out for a coffee, make sure they don’t think that you want them to take the week off. You will need them later.

P.S. Your loved ones need to hear this last one too. It’s a really good idea to take a break from your writing now and then and let them know how much they’re needed. Until next time, write on.

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14 comments on “Things Your Inner-Editor Needs to Hear You Say
  1. A. B. Davis says:

    I was on your same wavelength with this one, huh? I could not agree more with you in your last point about having your work as close to finished as possible. Also, sending my inner editor out for coffee is a good way to think about it. I think I shall have to try this approach to tempt her into truly leaving me alone! 🙂
    A. B. Davis recently posted…5 Ways to Silence Your Inner EditorMy Profile

  2. Peter, the line “You’re not always right.” makes me laugh out loud. Good one to keep handy for use when needed.

  3. Good advice, Peter! My inner editor and I are the best of friends, actually, although I understand that’s not true for most writers. :o)

  4. Thank you Peter! I argue with my inner editor, but our conversations are not as PG as your post. I have to get more aggressive with him or he’ll run me over.

    • Stephanie, the funny thing is when you find yourself running over story lines, arguing with your inner-editor etc. and then you realize your not at home and others are staring. 🙂

  5. grassroots08 says:

    Hi Peter,
    Thanks for taking the time to share this. It all makes good sense. I’ve read completed pieces (at least in the writer’s mind it was done) that needed a great deal of cleaning up before they should ever had been published. Who died, the editor, the publisher that accepted it, or the writer who died and the wife had to send it after his funeral?

    Two funerals this time; the writer and his manuscript. :-} Don

    New work recently published

    • Don, Thanks for your comments on the inner-editor and listening or not lisening to it.

      I don’t mind the links since I know you well, but I made them into short links for you. Cheers.

  6. mcwoman says:

    I teach a basic writing class at the local community college, and I preach the same thing about just getting the story down. Editing and rewriting are the second or third or fourth step in the process. Great post! I especially love the Bradbury quote about jumping off a cliff.

  7. Jan Wilberg says:

    Good advice, all of it. I spent a lot of time professionally on writing projects with extreme time deadlines so I have a bad habit of doing ‘first draft last draft” in my personal writing. Sometimes this works out well — often I have to go back and clean up the mess later. Important to find the balance between voice and readability.

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