When Teralyn Rose Pilgrim sent me an email offering to contribute a post here about the evil editor and her techniques for hushing that irritating, sometimes, debilitating voice, I was happy to say, “Yes.” I think this is a problem many, if not all, writers face, and it’s always helpful to hear how someone else handles it.
Teralyn Rose Pilgrim is the author of the unpublished novel Sacred Fire, a historical fiction about the Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome. She blogs at http://teralynpilgrim.blogspot.com/.
Silencing Your Inner Editor
Your inner critic is the cruel voice in your head that points out all your flaws and makes it difficult for you to write. I became intimately familiar with my inner critic during NaNoWriMo when I had to write 2,000 words a day whether I wanted to or not.
Many writers think of their inner critic as a shark. It ruthlessly tears everything they do to shreds. My inner critic is the chick in Mean Girls. You ever meet one of those bullies in high school who criticize everything you do just because it’s fun?
When my inner critic is at the top of her game, I can’t even write a word without hearing her comments. She’ll say, “Seriously? You’re going with that word? A good writer would have phrased it better. OMG, don’t even get me started on how cliché that metaphor is. Ew! What makes you think anyone’s going to like this character?”
How to Silence the Evil Inside
- Be mean back. I like to blow raspberries at my inner editor. Sometimes she’ll criticize me and I’ll say, “What do you know? You’re shallow and no one likes you because you’re mean. Go away.”
- Be flexible. Writing is as temporary as you want it to be. During the first draft of my book, I never imagined I would delete and add whole chapters, but I did, because writing is infinitely changeable.
- Suspend judgment. My inner critic is a lot louder while I’m writing than she is when I’m reading. If you don’t like what you’ve written, wait a good 24 hours and reread it before you decide whether to keep, toss, or change it. Writing is like stew; it’s always better the next day.
- Practice writing poorly. I took a writing class where a teacher asked us to write something truly awful, read it out loud to the class, and throw it away. I wrote something bad, and the world didn’t come crashing down. This gave me an elated sense of freedom. I can write whatever I want; good, bad, ugly, whatever.
- Recover from reader paranoia. I often imagine someone reading over my shoulder and wondering what on earth I just wrote (especially when I write at work). When I tuck notebooks in a drawer, I worry about people finding them and reading them. I realize now how unlikely that would be. Most writers practically have to beg people to read their work.
- Choose good conditions. A friend of mine always said your inner editor goes to bed at 11:00 pm. Playing silly music also helps, because if the singers can make themselves look like idiots, why can’t I?
- Ignore. You might think, “If it’s that simple, why doesn’t everybody do it?” It takes a good deal of practice, but sometimes, it really is that simple.