The presenter at a Creative Writing workshop told us we’d be more productive if we wore our Writer hat for writing the rough draft, then switched to our Editor hat for revising.
How many times have I heard that advice yet still fall into Editor mode without realizing it? Even as I’m writing this post, I’ve backspaced tons of times. Seems my Internal Editor ~ the Critic ~ is on my case.
The presenter asks, “Are you sick and tired of negative comments from your Internal Editor? Are you frustrated when the editorial voice in your head makes you stop mid-sentence, insists you fix problems on the spot, and pesters you until you do, bringing your writing to a halt?”
We nod. All of us. Glad I’m not alone.
“Okay then, put your frustrations into a letter to your Internal Editor.”
Dear High and Mighty Internal Editor,
I should have written this letter a long time ago when you bugged me the first time I opened a blank document with plans to jot down ideas for stories. I stared at the screen and let my mind wander. So many possibilities! I sat up straighter, thinking about which idea to explore first.
But you glared at me—a smirk on your face, looking down your nose at me—as my hands hovered over the keyboard.
You said, “Stop! What if you write the wrong word? What if it’s something stupid? You’re going to be so embarrassed.”
I was paralyzed. Wasn’t it okay to type whatever I wanted, to let the ideas flow and come back to sort them out later? After all, even writers of the last century had erasers. I started brainstorming again, tapping the keys.
You examined the screen. “What a mess! Who are you trying to fool? You don’t know what you’re doing and never will.”
So I was a novice. All writers had to start somewhere. I typed phrases, dashes, ran words together.
“You forgot a period, you numbskull!” You stomped around, huffing at me.
I spoke up. “Is that a crime? It’s only punctuation. Rough drafts are full of mistakes you can help me sort out later. The important thing is to capture ideas while they’re flowing.”
“It’s no use, Norma.” Your voice was snide, your eyebrow raised. “Even if you manage to put something together, who’s going to read it? There are a million people just like you who think they can write and—”
“—Enough! When I need you, I’ll call you.”
You turned away. “Okay.”
That wasn’t a respectful thing to say. Sorry. I know you try to stay in your place, but you keep forgetting to hold your tongue, which is why I’m writing this letter. During brainstorming sessions, you’re not allowed to interrupt.
Don’t get mopey. The thing is, you have skills I need. Your work is essential to me as I flesh out scenes and prepare final drafts. What I want to do is train you to nudge me once in a while without bringing everything to a standstill.
I’m looking forward to working with you. Now that we understand each other, it’ll be a lot more fun.”
October 14, 2014