I am not a prolific writer. I like to attribute this to my struggle to maintain a regular schedule of writing, and that once I establish a habit, my productivity will increase exponentially. There is some truth to this assessment, but it is only a part of my problem. I need to train my inner editor if I really want to pump up my word count.
Your inner editor is that little voice in your head that tells you when something in your writing isn’t working: plot points, characterization, and language. Especially language, in my case. My inner editor hovers over my shoulder, watching every single word I type, and eagerly brings my flow to a grinding halt if I have not chosen the perfect word on my first attempt.
Technology has enabled my inner editor. He knows how easy it is to hit the Delete or Backspace key. Procrastination in college helped him further erode the concept of a rough draft. There’s no time to rewrite when you’re working on a paper due the next day.
I’m suffering now from these personality quirks and bad habits because they’ve allowed my inner editor to disrupt my creative process. Instead of just pouring out the words in my head into a rough draft, I struggle to push out more than a couple of polished sentences at a time.
I need to be able to turn my inner editor off until my first draft is done. It’s not that I think editing shouldn’t happen at all during the initial writing process, but rather that my inner editor has gotten so out of control that I need to take such a drastic step to rein him in. That means ruthlessly squashing my urges to hesitate over the use of a “to be” verb or word repetition, and just type.
It’s not going to be easy. In fact, I imagine I won’t see much difference in my productivity for a couple weeks because I’ll be spending as much time strangling my inner editor as I was searching for the solution to what wasn’t “working.”
What I really need is one of those shock collars you put on dogs to train them not to bark. Have scientists identified what part of the brain the inner editor lives in yet? Then I could just hook up an electrode between it and a battery, and press a button to jolt him every time he rears his troublesome head before the rough draft is done.
Do you let your inner editor run free or keep it on a short leash? What exercises have you done to train it so it doesn’t interfere with your creative flow?