Quieting the Inner Editor — Puzzle Box Communications
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Quieting the Inner Editor

I recently had an interesting conversation with my 17-year-old nephew. You see, he’s writing a novel as part of NaNoWriMo. He’s got some great ideas and an amazing story but, he asked me, how do you turn off that inner editor? I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

The inner editor is that little voice in our heads that keeps interrupting as we’re trying to get things down on paper.  It judges us and corrects us and questions what we’re doing. Sometimes it speaks so loudly and so often, we can’t even begin to write. Other times it makes us stop and restart several times over so that completing an article or a blog post takes way longer than it needs to.

If your inner editor is keeping you from getting things done — from writing that ebook, starting your blog or finishing your report — here are a few suggestions.

Have a Plan

Before you start to write, brainstorm on the topic you’re going to cover. I love brainstorming because it’s so forgiving. Anything goes; there is no wrong or right. The inner editor doesn’t care about brainstorming and doesn’t even pay attention. Then take a look at your ideas and see if you find some patterns that might suggest a framework for what you’re writing. From there, you can create an outline. Graphic organizers can be great for organizing and outlining your ideas.

Just Write

Writing comes first then editing. I know it seems obvious, but I think a lot of us get held up by the need to get everything right on the first go. When you’re writing, do just that — write. Allow yourself to put your ideas down in whatever form they come out. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it probably won’t be. That’s why you’re going to go back and fix it later. When you approach it with that understanding, it’s much easier to let the ideas flow.

The Bait and Switch

Now this one is just a mind game, but it works for me. When I was in university I’d spend hours writing and rewriting my introductions. Then I realized that you really can’t write the first paragraph of a paper until you’ve written the rest of it. So instead of sweating over the beginning of my papers, I’d start each one with a decoy introduction. I’d write any old thing down just to get past the hard part and then move on. This works pretty well whenever you get stuck. Write some placeholder text without the expectation of perfection and make a note to yourself that you’ll need to go back to it later.

Now Edit

Give the writing a break. Put it aside for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. It’s amazing how much clearer those problem areas you were stuck on will appear when you’ve had some distance from them. This is when you can let the inner editor go crazy and also when she’ll be most effective, because now she won’t be distracted with all the writing stuff.

Give Yourself Time

The inner editor tends to become louder and more irritating the less time you have to complete a piece of writing. If you give yourself enough time to plan, to write and then to edit, it makes the whole process possible.

What about you? How do you deal with your inner editor?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Tamara. I design and build WordPress websites for solo entrepreneurs. I love nothing more than connecting people who are passionate about what they do with exactly the people who need to know them. I believe that technology can work with us so we can find fulfillment in our work.
{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Tash November 19, 2012, 3:10 pm

    The easiest way for me to quiet any inner editor (or external editor too, for that matter) – you know, any critic who tries to stop me from getting my story out?

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS! Nothing better than to stop for a brief moment and say “Thank You” to that voice… because it lets me know that I’m on to something good… 100% of the time! That voice comes out the strongest when I say authentic things, scary things, that challenges me.

    I let it come out in full force, and remember to always thank it for appearing. It never appears when I’m doing something usual, mundane, normal. It only comes out when I’m most creative and honest, so I see it as a blessing. 🙂

    • Tamara November 19, 2012, 3:29 pm

      Yes. I love that, Tash. What a great way to view it.

  • Frances Mote November 19, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Great post Tamara, I like your approach better than constantly telling myself to shut up in my head.

  • carrie November 19, 2012, 5:41 pm

    This totally justifies my mindless rambling and many spelling mistake. I love how you broke this down.s.

  • Rachel Sowden November 19, 2012, 6:20 pm

    Love the writing tips Tamara! I could of used them back in the school era! Hopefully my daughter will try them now and benefit from them! Thanks!

  • Samantha Stroh Bailey November 19, 2012, 11:41 pm

    As I’m now re-writing my second novel, I will read this post again and again. I literally have to sit on my hands sometimes to stop myself from editing as I write. I have to repeat out loud, “Just write.” Thank you for this, Tamara!

    • Tamara November 20, 2012, 7:52 am

      How exciting that you’re working on your next book. Now I feel like I was a small part of it. 🙂

  • Csenge November 20, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Thanks for this great article! I’ll have to come back to this once I get the courage up to write publicly.. In anticipation of the comments to a post, I know I’ll be tempted rewrite a paragraph 20 times 🙂

    Amazing post!

  • Bonnie @NetworkToGrow November 21, 2012, 12:25 am

    My Inner Editor drives me nuts sometimes. “You are not a good writer Bonnie… What are you going share?… Who are YOU to blog?…” I’m glad I’m not the only one who has one, I will just tell it to quiet down. Thanks for the practical tips, brainstorming is something I enjoy doing tremendously, so I will take on this first step. Great post Tamara!

  • Delia March 2, 2013, 7:09 pm

    Thank you for this post, loved it Tamara!
    I practically use your tip #2 – Just Write! I always take a look in a few days and update, revise, edit, etc. But first time I write a blog post I simple throw all words on a draft post, without paying too much attention.

    This is the only way I am able to actually finish a post and publish it. And you know what? After I publish it I may still not like it, and when I have time I go back and change it a bit more. It helps with SEO too for search engines to see fresh content, so it’s win-win 😉

    • Tamara March 2, 2013, 7:13 pm

      Thanks, Delia. One of the beauties of blogging is that you can still always go in and revise. And great point about SEO.

  • Katherine March 3, 2013, 2:01 pm

    Good advice. I’ve never really had a big problem silencing the inner critic when it comes to writing. Design on the other hand….different story. For me, it all boils down to confidence.

    I use the bait and switch technique all the time, and usually end up jotting down a basic outline of points I want to cover while I’m writing. Otherwise, I’ll forget the ideas.

    • Tamara March 3, 2013, 2:18 pm

      Very good point about confidence. Thanks, Katherine.

  • Jens March 30, 2013, 4:36 pm

    First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had a difficult
    time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15
    minutes are wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any suggestions or tips? Many thanks!

    • Tamara April 3, 2013, 11:02 am

      That’s a great question, Jen. It’s something I struggle with myself. I find that brainstorming before I get started helps to put all the ideas that are rattling around in my head on paper so they don’t keep bouncing around up there. I also find exercise to be a great way of clearing my mind, whether it’s running, yoga or just going for a walk, moving the body around and getting the blood flowing seems to clear the way for writing.

      Anyone else have suggestions for Jen?

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