The infernal internal editor is the shoulder devil common to all writers. We sit down to write a simple paragraph of description, a few lines of dialogue, a scene transition—and before our finger has even hit the first period key, our inner critic is screaming in our ear. It’s not good enough! Nobody talks that way! You really think any self-respecting reader is going to wade through a description like that? This is insanely boring: pardon me if I start to snore.
Nobody likes a tongue-lashing, even from invisible, imaginary anti-muses. So when Mr. Inner Editor starts warming up, what do we do? We tense. Our fingers freeze in crooked positions above the keyboard. We start chewing our lips, our eyes flicking back across the meager handful of words we were able to squeeze out before Mr. Editor started his harangue. Our hearts clutch a little and our breath sticks halfway up our throats, as we realize he’s right. Mr. Editor is right. This paragraph does stink. This dialogue is hokey. This description is too long. No wonder he’s snoring!
From there it’s an easy leap to convincing ourselves that since our description, dialogue, and scene transitions stink, then, naturally, we must stink as writers. Doubts assail us about our ability to write anything that will please our inner editor. Doubt avalanches into fear—and we’re crippled by panic.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve transformed the internal editor into a monster of epic proportions, but only because we haven’t learned to utilize him. Our editor’s not a fiend; he’s a friend. The best friend—and the best tool—a writer can have. But only if we embrace him.
A writer’s confidence comes and goes. One minute you’re brilliant, the next you’re a hack. But confidence isn’t what makes a writer. (If it was, we’d all be sunk.) What transforms a random someone typing a story into an author is sheer determination. We know our writing will always stand for improvement. But we take that as a challenge instead of a putdown. And we embrace Mr. Editor, not as a cruel taskmaster who will never be satisfied, but as a tough-love coach who refuses to let us settle for less than we’re capable of.
The trick to embracing the inner editor is to turn his diatribes into lessons for improvement. I’m thankful for my inner editor. I’m pleased that he’s usually right. I appreciate that I have this voice in my head telling me how to be better, never letting me settle for status quo. Is it tough sometimes? Do I occasionally hate him? Does he ever make me want to stomp away from the keyboard with the certainty that quitting now would be far easier? You betcha.
But I don’t quit, and I don’t let myself hate him for long. I love my infernal internal editor for the simple reason that he makes me better. And, if you learn to embrace him, then so will yours.
Related Posts: The Importance of Pleasing Ourselves in Our Writing
Keeping Your Writing a Secret
6 Reasons Not to Listen to Your Critique Partner
Killing Your Darlings
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Story by K.M. Weiland