Is Your Inner Editor a Voice of Discouragement? Learn How to Harness It

The infernal internal editor is the shoulder devil common to all writers. You sit down to write a simple paragraph of description, a few lines of dialogue, a scene transition—and before your finger has even hit the first period key, your inner editor is screaming in your 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.

Does Your Inner Editor Make You Feel This Bad?

Nobody likes a tongue-lashing, even from invisible, imaginary anti-muses. So when Mr. Inner Editor starts warming up, what do you do? You tense. Your fingers freeze in crooked positions above the keyboard. You start chewing your lips, your eyes flicking back across the meager handful of words you were able to squeeze out before Mr. Editor started his harangue.

Your heart clutches a little and your breath sticks halfway up your throat, as you 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 yourself that since your description, dialogue, and scene transitions stink, then, naturally, you must stink as a writer. Doubts assail you about your ability to write anything that will please your inner editor. Doubt avalanches into fear—and you’re crippled by panic.

You Can’t Beat Your Inner Editor–So Join Him

It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve transformed the inner editor into a monster of epic proportions, but only because we haven’t learned to utilize him. Your editor’s not a fiend; he’s a friend. In fact, he’s the best friend—and the best tool—a writer can have.

But only if you 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.

You know your writing will always have room for improvement. But don’t take that as a putdown. Take it as a challenge!

How Use Your Inner Editor Instead of Letting It Abuse You

Embrace Mr. Editor, not as a cruel taskmaster who will never be satisfied, but as a tough-love coach who refuses to let you settle for less than you’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 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!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! How do you handle criticism from your inner editor? Tell me in the comments!

Is Your Inner Editor a Voice of Discouragement? Learn How to Harness It

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Greats minds think alike and all that! 😉 Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Great post – I think mine drives me crazy, but he’s also the one that whips me into shape when I get down – I guess you have to take the good with the bad ;o)

  3. Yes, exactly. Tough love doesn’t work without the “tough” part!

  4. My internal editor has a female voice. A very catty female voice.

    Yes, it’s determination that makes one come back to writing over and over again.

    Thanks for this reminder.

  5. I think I envision my inner editor as a professor type – horn-rimmed glass pushed up on his nose, always peering over my shoulder and pointing.

  6. I’m learning to listen to my internal editor more, particularly at the beginning of a book. If I consistently feel something is off, I am trying to listen to my instincts and determine why.

  7. My editor screams especially loud at the beginning of a book. Drives me crazy – but he’s inevitably right!

  8. I like how you take the common wisdom and turn it on its head. So many times, we writers are told to ignore our internal editors until we have the first draft on paper. But, you’re right. The internal editor is our friend. We should listen and change, where appropriate. Always keeping in mind the balance between improving and “paralysis of analysis.”

  9. I try hard to turn him off when I write the first draft but he sits there too, pointing things out. So I usually give in and feel better despite my previous goals:)

  10. @Denise: The “paralysis of analysis” – I like that! Perfectionism is the bane and the blessing of any artist. We just have to learn to find that sweet spot of “good enough.”

    @Terri: I know I feel miserable if I *don’t* listen to him. My writing flows much better if I fix problems as I go along.

  11. Wow, I needed that post! I’ve been grappling desperately with my inner editor as of late, struggling with whether or not to ignore him or embrace him. A great tip I’ve found: When I’m writing and I’m on a role, but my inner editor starts nagging about what I’ve just written, I just type in italics: FIX, so that I can keep on writing, and when I return, I can go back over things with my dear inner editor. Because if I listened to him ALL of the time- I’d never finish my books!

  12. I’ve heard of others doing that, and I think it’s a brilliant idea. So far, my OCD-ness has prevented me from making it work for myself! :p

  13. What would the world be like without editors??? From reading your books, it’s clear that you are a wonderful editor. 🙂

  14. Thanks very much. 🙂

  15. I so needed to hear this today!!

    Corra

    from the desk of a writer

  16. Then I’m glad you were able to stop by!

  17. A handmade trackback since I can’t figure out how to do it the official way. 🙂 I mentioned this article at my blog in a january in review post. Cheers! – Corra McFeydon

  18. I just have to listen to him. He just doesn’t shut up. But at the end of the day, it makes an easier second draft for me. With less rubbish to clean up

  19. I am doubly cursed, since I am an editor by profession. And a feisty one at that. And I have a crippling giant mini-me on my shoulder who learnt from the best.

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